Work - life balance: myth or something real?

By: Editor Together Abroad 31-08-2015

Categories:Guest Contributors,
The importance of work – life balance is growing strong nowadays, so is our interest in it. The concept of this phenomenon has gone through major changes. The first understanding of it was the time balance between “work” and “play”, however things are much more complex. The work – life balance is the theory of prioritizing appropriately workstyle with lifestyle, including family, leisure time, personal development, etc. This balance is different for everybody, depending on the needs of every person. Some put great importance on their work ambitions, others emphasize on family development or hobbies and personal time. Thus work-life balance exists individually according to one’s needs. Maslow’s model of “hierarchy of needs” lays out the five levels of humans’ needs that establish and enhance peoples’ motivation and satisfaction.

The first three levels are called deficiency needs that include biological and physiological, safety needs and love and belongingness needs. The top two levels are called growth needs consisting of esteem and self-actualization. Maslow presents the idea that one can reach the higher level of needs once the basic ones have been satisfied. However, in the fast changing information society we live in peoples’ urgencies change on day to day bases. It is not as simple as climbing the ladder of needs, peoples’ requirements and demands shift rapidly within and between the different levels. Thus, one can only imagine what a complex notion achieving work-life balance is and what a great variety of obstacles there are in such an endeavour.
Work-life disbalances occur in all levels, from the state of unemployment that leads to lack of basic security, for example, to the phenomenon of underemployment that lead to lower self-esteem and emotional and psychological disruptions. A few issues show to be the biggest universal threats against achieving work-life balance nowadays.

1. Stress

Work related stress and the negative health and business outcomes of it affect a great number of European workplaces. Researches have been consistent in proving that the work environment characteristics have great influence on creating stress at the workplace. The great life changes of globalisation, improvement of information and communication technology, constant change of work arrangements in the last decades affected working life with constant time pressure, multitasking and the need for constant improvement for maintaining one’s status. The poor management of such transformations is the factor for increasing psychological risk for both employees and employers. Researches, conducted by the European Commission and Eurofound over the European working conditions for the range between years 2007 and 2012, show that 28% of the respondents’ mental well-being (which is equivalent of nearly 55.6 million European workers) has been negatively affected by the influence of this psychological risk. Moreover, 14% of the people have developed work-related health problems such as depression or anxiety. Statistics go further and further showing the great amount of “human costs” resulting from work-related stress and psychological risks.

2. Technology

The advances in information and communication technology have great influence on the work productivity outcomes in comparison to only two decades ago; however, the negative effects of it has also increased. The main aspect in which technology is causing work-life disbalance is blurring the boarders between workstyle and lifestyle. Statistics show that workers spend on average between one and two hours more per day after working hours answering work-emails, finishing work projects, etc. Furthermore, the possibility to reach everybody at every time and also the demand for immediate response dims the separation of time and focus spend on work and life, leading to lowering the satisfaction from fulfilling accordingly one’s needs.
The list of concepts creating work-life disbalance is long and complex, which makes generating an universal formula for establishing long-term balance simply impossible. Thus, the question of work-life balance – myth or reality can only be answered individually by constantly evaluating and re-evaluating one’s personal and work ambitions and needs and the means for accomplishing them.

By: Iva Plocheva