How Work Life Balance Affects Individuals

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A lack in work-life balance is costing employees and organizations billions of dollars a year. Organizations that are experiencing high turnover due to burn-out of employees lose wealth (knowledge and money) because of poor work-life balance. According to Harvard Business Review, an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year of healthcare spending in the U.S. is due to psychological and physical burn-out of employees (Garton, 2017). Personally seeing the affects burn-out has towards a workplace and individuals has activated further research to better understand work-life balance.

Work-life balance is “the relationship between the amount of time and effort that someone gives to work and the amount that they give to other aspects of life” according to Macmillan Dictionary (2019). This can be accomplished through many different ways for individuals’ preferences. Flexible hours, teleworking, using paid time off, opportunities to continue learning, engagement with the community, and taking walking breaks throughout the day are a few ways to incorporate work-life balance in the workplace. In a world that is fast paced and competitive, why should leadership and managers advocate for the above opportunities when they take away work time, resources, and money? Work-life balance has been proven to prevent burn-out and turnover but also reduce stress, increase employee satisfaction, and create higher levels of productivity.

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Work-life balance has become a trending topic among work forces for multiple reasons. The first being household members taking on more family roles within the home. This causes more stress in the home environment compared to previous generation roles. Millennials themselves are a reason for the trending focus on work-life balance as they have shown more value in the topic than past generations. Lastly, job satisfaction and performance are directly related to work-life balance. Studies have found, work-life balance leads to a higher quality of life which in return, leads to higher retention rates, job satisfaction, and job performance. Though we have confirmed the benefits of work-life balance, it is important to note the preferences and need from individuals.

Each individual requires a different amount of work-life balance. Preferences can even be seen from different generations. The three main generations in the workplace right now include baby boomers, generation X, and millennials. All these generations view work differently and thus, require different performances of balance. As leaders and managers within organizations, it is important to understand how work-life balance is requested.

Learning the affects work-life balance brings to an organization can assist us in understanding how to manage employees better, consider opportunities for growth in our own organizations, and consider what is personally needed to have a better work-life balance. The aim of this paper is to explore the benefits of work-life balance, how generations perceive work-life balance differently, and how it affects the work place.

There are three generations that are the majority of the workforce. The oldest workers are the Baby Boomers born between late 1940s and 1960. The second generation is Generation X with group members being born between 1961 and 1980. Last are the Millinennials born between 1981 and 1995. All three generations value work-life balance but at different levels.

Millennials, the youngest generation in the work-force, have the strongest need for work-life balance and rank it high when seeking employment. It is not uncommon for millennials to choose flexibility and more vacation time over salary (Gilly, 2017, p. 6). Millennials tend to have more confidence and expectations of job growth or promotions. For Millennials, they grew up in an environment of no losers thus, their feeling of entitlement to work-life balance and promotions. Balancing and acknowledging the differences between these generations is important.

Generation X view work as a means to make money to support their personal life (Gilly, 2017, p. 6). Their value on money rather than work as a life style, makes them not loyal to companies but rather the ability to not interfere their personal life. Gen Xers are known as the Latch Key generation because of the amount of time spent at home alone. This generation saw the effects of drastic downsizing companies through lay-offs on their parents’ generation thus creating their lack of loyalty towards companies.

Baby Boomers seek loyalty over work-life balance in a company and will often retire from companies they started at. Many Baby Boomers have decided to work past the age of retirement. This decision comes more at a personal request than financial need for these employees. Because of this decision, they are starting to value the opportunities of work life balance. Baby Boomers appreciate time to focus on their health and have a flexible schedule to allow them to continue working past retirement.

A study by Bennett in the Journal of Managerial Psychology proved Baby Boomers recent appreciation of work-life balance in a current study. Bennett surveyed individuals from each generation to measure their work-to-family conflict. Bennett’s (2017) study concluded “Baby Boomers reported the least work-to-family conflict, followed by Millennials and Gen X-ers.” A previous national survey from 1997 showed Baby Boomers having higher work-to-family conflict than Gen X-ers. The shift over 2 decades indicates Baby Boomers reaping the benefits of work-life balance by working less hours, having more job flexibility or less travel requirements.

Bennett’s survey also suggests along with the above benefits, the life-cycle change for Baby Boomers from parents of dependents to empty nesters plays a part in their work-to-family conflict. When the previous survey was taken in 1997, many of them had young children still at home. The below table from Bennett’s research shows the mean score for 428 individuals and the height of Generation X for work-to-family conflict. Gen X-ers are the majority generation with children under 18 at home proving the concept that not only does generation and age play a part but also where generations and individuals are in the life-cycle.

Prior to writing this paper, I would regularly state how I wish I worked a 4-day work week because I would be more productive. I was certain many would benefit including organizations. Having the opportunity to conduct extensive research on the topic has given me more appreciation and context behind my

References:

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