Work-Life Balance

Topics: Health care, Employment, Medicine Pages: 36 (10635 words) Published: February 23, 2013
Work life balance is the separation between the work life and the personal life. It is the boundary that is created between one’s profession, career, or business and every other segment that makes up the life. Work-life balance, in its broadest sense, is defined as a satisfactory level of involvement or ‘fit’ between the multiple roles in a person’s life. Work-life balance for any one person is having the ‘right’ combination of participation in paid work (defined by hours and working conditions) and other aspects of their lives. This combination will change as people move through life and have changing responsibilities and commitments in their work and personal lives. In the current economic environment, work life balance now ranks as one of the most important workplace attributes. The economic downturn has placed tremendous pressure on employees over their long-term job security. Employees are responding by seeking out employers that offer a better work-life balance, and research shows they work harder for those that do. In the early years of communal living usually the entire family engaged in work for subsistence at home or near home. In pre industrialization period growing size of trade and craft business partially segregated the workplace and family life. During the industrial revolution in mid 1800s use of machines for mass production necessitated setting up of factories away from home. Men dominated the workforce in factories while household work was taken care of primarily by women who stayed back at home. During late 18th and early 19th century due to division of labor and between early 19th century and 1950s due to technological factors (which depended on physical strength, giving men an advantage over women at the workplace) separation of work from family was more consolidated and men took the main role of earners and women took primarily the charge of home and family work. In early part of second half of the 20th century gender division was reversed due to the technological advancements and computerization which reduced the dependence on physical strength in factories thus facilitating greater participation of women in workforce. From 1950’s up to early years of 21st century a wide array of socio-economic factors has been responsible which significantly influenced the work and personal life of employees. With increasing participation of women in workforce, the participation of working mothers, dual earner couples and single parents also increased. This trend immediately enhanced the child and elder care burden on a large number of employees and in addition created new challenges in balancing work and family life. At organizational level, 1950s onwards, significant enhancement in long hour culture, unpaid overtime, changing work time and work intensification started to be witnessed. This resulted into enhanced work related stress, time squeeze for home and family and employee demand for shorter working hours. Conflict between work and personal life aggravated further due to rise of service sector industry, technological complexities at workplace, ageing population and loss of social support network. History of work/life programs can be traced back to 1930s, when introduction of reduced working hours with four shifts of six-hours instead of the usual three daily eight hours shifts in W.K. Kellog Company resulted into enhanced employee morale and productivity. Interdependence of ‘work’ and ‘family’ was highlighted by Kanter (1977) who highlighted aspects of work affecting family life and aspects of family life affecting work. 1990s witnessed Focus on ‘work-family’ and ‘family-friendly policies’ broadened to a larger ‘work-life balance’ discourse. Every individual’s life has multiple segments such as family, finances, social, self, spiritual, health and hobbies. In each of these life segments, an individual needs to devote certain period of time, energy and effort while major part...
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