Work-Life Balance – Definition, Significance and Importance

Work-life balance is a very broader term in Human Resource Management and often referred to finding the right equilibrium between the different aspects and roles in a life of a person. Although there are different views and concepts about work-life balance but it is generally coupled with maintaining an overall balance in different aspects of life.

Work-Life Balance

During the last decade technological revolution has stormed all aspects of life and there were different debates about the future of work. Different scenarios predicted a rising trend in un-employment and economic insecurity. Industrial restructuring and emergence of latest technology no only affected the importance of workforce but it was also felt that employees will be treated as superfluous overheads.

History of Work-Life Balance

In 1986, the term “Work-Life Balance” was first identified, but it’s usage in everyday language was still sporadic for a certain number of years. Although, interestingly work-life programs existed in early years such as 1930, but people did not recognize them. Before the Second World War, the W.K. Kellogg Company created some flexible work hour shifts for their employees who replaced the traditional daily working hours, and the new shift resulted in increased employee efficiency and morale. In 1977, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, for the first time in his influential book, Work and Family in the United States: A Critical Review and Agenda for Research and Policy, raised the issue of Work-Life Balance and brought it to the forefront of organizations and research. This concept forces organizations to follow work-family friendly environment. However during the 1980s the importance of work-life balance acknowledged all over the world and many multinational companies introduced the policies and measures to secure the rights of the workers and tried to maintain a right balance in their culture. The first waves of these programs were mainly to support women with children. Now-a-days, many work-life balance programs have been introduced which are less gender specific and identify other obligations as well as those of family. By the mid of the 1990s work-life balance became a fundamental issue for individuals and it became a necessary part of the strategies of all the organizations all over the world. This growing awareness of the central importance of the issue resulted in major growth in attempted work-life solutions during this decade and many new studies and ideas emerged.

Definitions of Work-Life Balance

Now-a-days, the concept of Work-Life Balance is not new; because of its importance it has been discussed extensively. It has been conceptualized as an individual’s orientation across various life roles and inter roles phenomenon. Different scholars have given different views on how they perceive the concept of Work-Life Balance. Some of the important definitions are:

  • Kofodimos has defined Work-Life Balance as ‘a satisfying, healthy and productive life that includes work, play and love, that integrates a range of life activities with attention to self and to personal and spiritual development, and that expresses a person’s unique wishes, interests, and values.’
  • Kirchmeyer has viewed Work-Life Balance as ‘achieving satisfying experiences in all life domains, and to do so require personal resources such as energy, time, and commitment to be well distributed across domains.’
  • Clark views work-life balance as ‘satisfaction and good functioning at work and at home with a minimum of role conflict’

These definitions of Work-Life Balance share number of common elements for example; all highlights the balance between work and non-work domains and equality of inputs and outcomes.

Why Work-Life Balance so Important?

Over the past few decades, there has been substantial increase in work which is felt due to a very stiff competition in global markets and ever increasing pressure and demands from the organizations that expects more and more from their employees yet offers a very little security and compensations in return. For many employees today including both male and female their lives are becoming more complex and difficult with an increased burden of family and other personal responsibilities and interests. Therefore, in an effort to retain employees and maximize their performance, it is increasingly important for organizations to recognize this balance.

This increased pressure has affected the life of worker at an organization in many ways. It is not only harming the social norms but also causing many physical and psychological diseases such as heart problem, weak immune system, stiff muscles, exhaustion and jumpiness etc. Increased working hours means there will be very less time to be spend with family and community. If an employee is not mentally satisfied or balanced, he will not be able to perform his duties with due diligence and care.

Now, however, things have taken altogether a different turn. Employees quality of work-life is becoming a burning issue all over the world. For a growing number of employers, human resource challenges are their biggest concern. Leading employers are recognizing that positive work-life outcomes for employees — from achieving work-life balance to the satisfactions of challenging work and career development — are key ingredients of a successful business strategy. In practice, improving the quality of work life remains a tough challenge. Naturally, many managers see the important links between the quality of work life and organizational performance. Yet they face barriers to progress. So it is necessary to update the case for taking action to improve the quality of jobs and work environments.

A happy and well balanced employee will not only perform his daily operation with utmost care but will also be able to avoid different complex social problems. Work-life programs will not only help to boost employees morale, reduce absenteeism, preventing the outflow of valuable information of the organization in difficult economic situations but will also reduce the cost and affect the overall performance of the company. It is very important for the human resource professional to understand the critical issues of work-life balance. Be it employees whose family members and/or friends are called to serve their country, mothers who are trying to raise their children and make a living.

Importance of Work-Life Balance from the Perspective of Employer:

A balanced culture/environment in any organization will not only be helpful for employees in different ways but it will also provide many tangible benefits to the business. Implementing work-life balance provides an excellent opportunity to consult with staff to review the job design and develop innovative and supportive work practices. This sort of consultation will ensure the needs of individuals are met and a more agile workplace is achieved. It will also lead to a greater level of employee commitment to the success of the business. By minimizing the employee’s turnover in organization you will not only boost your repute as a good employer but it will also help to achieve the quality standard of products out prevent the outflow of valuable inside information to other organizations because if a skilled worker will leave the organization it will take a hell lot of time any money to replace him with some other suitable person.

Importance of Work-Life Balance from the Perspective of Employee:

For human being, home is a shadow of heaven on earth where he goes and takes rest but due to imbalance structure between work and life it has become an additional place of work with plenty of office tasks and assignment. Any human being will be able to perform his duties and tasks deliberately only when he/she has a right balance in between his/her official and personal life.

A balanced and happy employee is more likely to perform better at work and can provide many tangible benefits for a business. There are new ways to make work ‘work’ that benefit both employers and employees. In fact, research shows that flexibility is a critical component of workplace effectiveness and that employees who work in flexible and effective work places are more likely to:

  • Be engaged in their jobs and committed to helping the company succeed.
  • Plan on staying with their employers.
  • Be satisfied with their job, which translates to good customer service.
  • Exhibit better mental health and well-being.

Significance of Work-Life Balance

Work-Life Balance is becoming an important issue as people deals with shrinking workplace and time pressure. Work-life initiatives offer a win-win situation to both employees and employers and affect business progress and performance in many ways as improving work-life balance practices increase productivity, employee well-being, reduces costs, lead to improve retention and recruitment and better motivation and morale for employees. Various theories have revealed that work-life balance policies try to minimize stress and add to a healthier and safer work environment. Work-life balance has been associated with greater employee commitment, job satisfaction and organizational citizenship behavior and its policies are beneficial for individuals, their families, physical health, mental health, relationships, creativity, organizations, and society. Employees expect their employers to recognize that in addition to job they also have a life that includes their family, friends and social gathering. Studies have shown that a workforce that is out of balance faces stress and dissatisfaction which reduces family and work engagement. Work-life balance issues are one of the main reasons which forces workers to quit their jobs. Therefore, work-life balance is an important and increasingly hot topic because it’s about improving people’s quality of life and aims to widen access to career opportunities and paid employment. Firm size is also the next best predictor of the presence of work-life balance policies; because its size affects the extent and type of work-life balance policies a firm can offer. Large companies are more likely to offer longer and paid parental leave and flexible working hours. In short, firms have recognized that creating a balanced work and family life of employees is the only solution of all problems. Now, senior management has become more proactive about their employees health and they are introducing and implementing work life programs.

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