‘Work life balance’ has been a hot topic for both employees and employers for some time now. It has been at the forefront of a lot of management meetings and having a healthy work life balance can be a challenge for businesses, but it can also have a serious impact on organisations.
I meet with candidates daily to assist them with their career and I always ask them a question at an interview being ‘What is important to them in their next role?’ Nine out of ten candidates respond with ‘work life balance’ being of extremely high priority and in the top two most important things to them. Even more so than salary these days. In fact, candidates are willing to reduce their pay to have this. When I ask what their understanding of work life balance is and what it means to them, the most common response is that they simply want to work a standard 8-hour day with an hour for lunch and limited overtime. Some suggest having flexibility to work from home or flexibility on what hours they work, however, the standard working hours is by far the most common answer.
The term work life balance is used to describe the balance that an individual needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life. Some choose to see work and personal time as separate and others will debate that it is all one thing known as ‘life’. So why are so many people focused purely on hours worked each day?
In my opinion, this is where we are getting it wrong. If we are striving for work life balance to be calculated by the number of hours worked per day we will never be satisfied, and we will never fully achieve it. Work life balance does not mean an equal balance between hours at work and personal life. There is no one size fits all in this case.
To me, work life balance means having a harmonious relationship between your work and personal life. They come hand in hand and your best individual work life balance will vary over time. There will be times at work when you need to put your foot to the pedal and crunch out the hours to deliver and this will be non-negotiable. Then there will be times when there will be different circumstances or stages where our personal lives will take more of a priority and this is where the flexibility applies. Personally, I am often criticised by friends who say I work too much or too late, purely based on hours worked and the fact I don’t finish every day at 4 or 5pm like they do. To me, I see myself as having a great relationship between work and my personal life and having flexibility between the two. I have had times where my personal life has been hectic or different circumstances have arisen where things haven’t gone to plan, and I have always been given the flexibility by my bosses to make it a priority. On the flipside I have also had periods at work where things are manic and pumping out work is my number one priority. This is my idea of a great work life balance.
So, as we head into 2019, if you’re looking for work, think about what work life balance means for you. If you are an employer, think about how you can create work life balance for your employees as the benefits such as retention in a job rich market is critical. If we get this right, I believe we will be much more satisfied in our lives and the reward will be far greater.