If there is one over-used phrase in corporate Australia it is “work life balance” – businesses have whole departments dedicated to getting this right. Yet it still remains something we just can’t seem to get quite right.
Of course, having a good balance between one’s work and personal life is essential to create healthy, happy, fulfilled human beings. And these are the types of people businesses want. No businesses wants to create a culture that leaves their staff burnt out. Burn out leads to stress and poor health and we all know that too much stress that goes on for too long is linked to anxiety and depression.
Healthier workers are more productive. So, it’s not just in the interest of the individuals to have a good work life balance, it is really important for businesses to ensure their staff are not overly invested in their work, to the detriment of their personal lives.
The approach businesses take to creating work life balance is one that is constantly evolving; reflective of our changing opinions to work and lifestyles through the generations.
Shifting attitudes to work
Our lifestyle and attitudes to work and the dynamics at play in the workforce today is so different to what it was some 50 – 80 years ago. After the WW2 for example, young workers craved stability and were almost grateful for employment. There was greater loyalty to employers.
Those people born in the 70s and 80s, the Gen-x’s grew up seeing first-hand the effects of burn out on their parents, and the ripple effects that had on the family unit. These guys are the ones who grew up and started the whole work life balance movement, to create a better life for themselves and their families. The attitude shifted to ensuring they work for companies that recognise this, they actively look for perks to give them better lifestyles and ways to spend more time on their life pursuits away from the office.
Then we have millennials, the generation comprising most of the workforce today. The collective mindset has shifted again and this generation of workers think of work as just a part of life. They have been born into a very complex and ever-changing world. HR departments remain dedicated to attracting and keeping millennials with “pizza Fridays”, beanbags in the office, on site baristas, games rooms etc… While these perks and a fun office is nice, many millennials are more interested in finding a career path and a company that will support their desired lifestyle. In fact, it’s this generation who are most invested in a work life balance. They see work as more fluid and are more flexible with how work fits into their life most effectively, how they can make it support the lifestyles they want.
How can we create real work life balance without sacrificing productivity?
One of the key factors for businesses to keep in mind when trying to strike the right culture and implement initiatives to stop burn out and have a healthy balance between work and personal lives is this… work life balance will have a different meaning for everyone. It’s a personal thing; the right balance between how much someone want to commit to work is going to vary from one person to the next. It’s not the same for everyone. There needs to be some flexibility.
Flexibility is key
Workplaces that offer flexibility lead to healthier workers. They decrease stress, increase job satisfaction and allow employees to choose how they want to work, effectively supporting their chosen lifestyles. Work can be slotted into their lives as they sit fit.
Businesses that have let go of the old “nine to five” model see people enjoying greater levels of flexibility. Parents can spend more time with their children, taking time after school for a couple of hours and then logging back on at night, for example. In flexible workplaces, people can choose to work from home or come into the office, again, ensuring their work fits into their lifestyle. This flexibility appeals to multi-generational workplaces. From your own experience you probably see how people use hybrid work models to suit their own personal lifestyles, some love working from home all the time, some live going into the office others love mixing it up.
The decentralised workforce is also contributing to more flexible business models. More businesses today have people working from all over the country, or all over the world. People are more supported in working from wherever they want to be in the world. They can move to the country and still have a corporate job. Having a job and working for a company that supports their lifestyle is vitally important to their wellbeing and happiness.
In creating work life balance, flexibility is the key consideration, in creating a happy and healthy workforce across all generations.
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