Work Life Balance: Different Perceptions

Before we try to understand the reasons of work & life imbalance, we need to understand what perceptions do various people have about the work-life balance priorities and how they strive for attaining a harmonious balance between their personal life and work life. The causes of work-life balance could be many such as tedious and long work hours, extra time invested in travelling, changes in the demographics with more women (especially married women) joining employment and also increasing opportunities in terms of virtual office set up, work from home opportunities and flexi-work hours.

Work-life balance need not necessarily aim at achieving an equal balance. Giving same priority to every responsibility by way of proper scheduling and time management may practically be impossible, unrewarding and quite unrealistic too. Life should be more fluid and each step taken should be governed by the demands of the situation.

Even work-life balance preferences may differ for an individual during different circumstances at different stages of one’s personal and professional life. Work-life balance priorities for a married individual may be different than what it used to be when he/she must have been single.

Freshers may have different priorities for their professional & personal lives, whereas those who may be on the verge of retirment may have different work & life expectations.

Work-life balance priorities are different for all of us and these priorities change over time. However, the foundation pillars of work-life balance are enjoyment and achievement.

Achievement as well as enjoyment answer the basic question of “Why”...Why do we want to become rich, buy a new house, need to have a successful professional life and earn good income, etc. Achievement implies the art of accomplishing something which one has desired for by demonstrating special skills, great effort and courage. On the other hand, enjoyment does not necessarily mean being happy always, but it is the state of contentment or satisfaction, pride and celebrating life or it may simply mean a psychological state of well being.

Achievement and enjoyment are essentially two sides of the same coin, where one without the other will be meaningless. This explains the reason why extremely rich or successful people may not necessarily be happy or contended with their life. Work-life balance can be attained if one attempts to strike a harmonious balance between achievement and enjoyment, which should be our priority for each day.

Work-life balance is not the end by itself, it is a process which keeps evolving over a period of time. It is based on the notion that both paid work and personal life should not be understood as competing preferences rather should be considered as complementary aspects for living a full life.

Literature Review on Work Life Balance

An extensive literature review reveals that work life balance is influenced by a gamut of factors. As per Kopelman et al., (2006) [14], Kossek & Ozeki (1998) [15], work-life program initiatives such as flexi work hours, policies for leave and support provided by the organizations for helping the employees to discharge their family care related responsibilities, have an influence on the overall work and life balance of the employees.

Grover & Crooker (1995) [9], Kossek & Ozeki(1998) [15] and Lobel & Kossek (1996) [17], identified in their research that work life programs not only help the employees in maintaining a balance between their professional and family life, but may have a direct impact on the employee attitude, overall productivity at work, job satisfaction, behaviour of employees at work and may be linked with the attrition/retention rates of employees.

Ujvala Rajadhyaksha (2012) in her studies revealed that Indian companies focus more on gender equality, child care, raising health awareness and stress management issues while implementing their work life program modules. Further, the research work of Reddy N K et al (2010) [27] highlighted that work life balance of married employees can directly be linked with the overall job satisfaction and performance at work.

The research work of Baral and Bhargava (2011) [3] suggested that the Indian companies should be sensitized with the importance of implementing a well planned and integrated work-life program. The organizations should encourage a culture which supports and promotes work life balance for improving employee commitment and productivity. Madhurima Das and K B Akhilesh (2012) [19] revealed in their research that work-life balance depends upon various variables like age, gender differences and occupational background of the employees.

Reimara Valk and Vasanthi Srinivasan (2011) [28] highlighted in their research that work-life balance is influenced by six main variables like:

  1. family influence on life related decisions or choices,
  2. multiple responsibilities which a person is expected to deal with,
  3. professional identity and perception of self,
  4. challenges in attaining a work-life balance and strategies for addressing the challenges,
  5. organizational procedures & policies and
  6. the support from the society.

A careful review of the literature on work-life balance indicates that work-life balance has got a strong association with the salary and age. It was also identified that work-life balance has a strong impact on the overall employee commitment towards their work and job satisfaction.

We strive hard for meeting our needs and fulfilling our passion by engaging in various activties and since these needs/desires cannot be the same forever but change with the passage of time, we must assess our needs & passion periodically in order to ensure that the balance between the personal life and work front is not disturbed.

In a nutshell, we can conclude that work-life balance is influenced by various interdependent and interrelated variables, besides this it has also been analyzed that certain conducive conditions facilitate achievement of a balance between the work and life demands. We have equally learnt that the work-life balance is influenced by the perceptual differences and various other variables.

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Workplace Efficiency