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There are often two main aspects associated with work-life balance – the first is lack of time and scheduling conflicts, and the other is feeling overwhelmed, overloaded or stressed by the pressures of multiple roles. Balance is not necessarily about splitting time equally, but rather that the individual feels fulfilled and content with both aspects of their life. Work-life conflict occurs when the overall demands of work and personal roles are incompatible in some respect making participation in one role more difficult by participation in the other role.
Health Canada has identified four broad categories associated with work-life balance:
From: Reducing Work-Life Conflict: What Works? What Doesn't?, Health Canada, (2008)
Balance is also one of the identified psychosocial risk factors that can impact an individual's mental health.
Each person can be affected differently based on factors such as frequency and duration of work, the nature of the job or role, roles outside of work, etc.
When an individual must spend more time at work, they may experience any combination of the following:
When an individual must spend more time with other roles, they may experience any combination of the following:
Simply put, work-life balance initiatives are any benefits, policies, or programs that help create a better balance between the demands of the job and the healthy management (and enjoyment) of life outside work.
Work/life initiatives can potentially deal with a wide range of issues including:
The need for balance is essential. Studies on work/life balance programs have reported such benefits as:
Work/life balance plans cannot be a one size fits all model. There are many factors to consider such as the different generations at work, age, culture, family needs, and socioeconomic status.
Work/life balance initiatives can be part of a complete health and safety or a health promotion program in the workplace. The initiatives can be written as part of existing health and safety policy, or particular guidelines can be referenced in the overall company human resources policy or the collective agreement (if applicable).
Meeting both the 'workers' and overall business needs requires a significant commitment from senior management. Each workplace should tailor its work/life policies to suit their own particular needs and corporate culture. This 'best fit' should be done with frequent consultation with workers. As with other health and safety programs, for work/life initiatives to be successful and sustainable, both employers and workers must take responsibility for making the program work effectively. An evaluation or feedback systems should also be part of that process.
When starting, it is best to appoint an individual or in some cases, form a joint work/life balance committee. To research needs and to implement the program, suggested steps to take are as follows:
1. Assess the workplaces' current situation and objectives.
2. Get support from all levels of the organization. Educate all members of the workplace about the benefits and challenges of introducing these programs. Be clear on the intentions and goals of the program. Provide any necessary training or education to help these address concerns.
Some common concerns or challenges that may need to be addressed include the misconceptions that:
3. Be clear how hours, productivity and deadlines will be monitored. Address fears and apprehension expressed by both employees and managers. Be sure that workload issues are resolved and set realistic targets.
4. Create a comprehensive policy or guideline:
5. Initiate a trial period and/or pilot studies.
6. Monitor, re-survey, and make any adjustments that are necessary.
Please see the OSH Answers document Workplace Health and Wellness Promotion - Getting Started for more information about establishing a workplace health or wellness program.
(Adapted from: Comprehensive Workplace Health Program Guide, CCOHS)