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work-life balance

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Work-life balance is the optimal arrangement of an individual’s on-the-job and private time to facilitate health and personal satisfaction without negatively impacting productivity and professional success. 

The degree to which an organization promotes a healthy congruence between the professional and personal lives of employees is largely a function of corporate culture and management styles. The most basic elements required to achieve balance are sufficient time off and an appropriate workload. Other elements common to nurturing work environments include the option to telecommute, flexible hours, and wellness initiatives in the workplace such as yoga classes and  mindfulness training. The results-only workplace (ROWE), one approach to creating balance, allows employees to arrange their working lives in any way that suits them, as long as they complete the tasks they have been assigned. 

Although fostering work-life balance seems counter-productive to some employers, it offers benefits not only for workers but also for businesses. According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank, work-life balance increases employee productivity 10.6 percent. Other benefits to the business include fewer incidences of burnout, less absenteeism, higher levels of employee engagement  -- which can lead to more innovation and a greater likelihood that employees will advocate for the company.

See Nigel Marsh's TED talk on work-life balance:

 

This was last updated in November 2014

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Work life balance is a difficult (and important to me) topic. Software companies are notorious for not respecting this. Many resort to cycling through young recent grads that don't have families or many responsibilities yet because they will work the hours asked.
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It is a tough thing to manage. Sometimes after working 9-10 hours a day you may have schooling or education to pursue. Then try and take care of a family. At times your job will cause stress at home due to project deadlines and travel requirements. I agree with Justin that sometimes younger, single employees have an edge here with more flexible hours. Give them time and they too will get burned out or move on.
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I'd like the flexibility to telecommute. Getting just 5 sick days a year is not enough sometimes. The ability to work from home would still keep me productive Considering a 40 min drive in, at the office 9-10 hours and the 40 min drive home, eats up a good portion of my day. When it comes time to relax after dinner and family responsibilities, if there is nothing on T.V. I would not mind getting back on to do some work. I really enjoy my job, but do not want to spread my self too thin.
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I've struggled with this over the years. When I was younger and much more "gung ho" and had few attachments and little to lose, I'd work crazy hours for extended periods. When the inevitable pace of reality set in, I had some explaining to do as to why I was no longer going to be putting in 14 hour days going forward. Life events have a lot to do with this, including getting married, having children, having a desire to be involved in your families activities, etc. Communicating those desires regularly and often to your management team and co-workers is critical. Otherwise, their expectations can get horribly skewed.
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I thought about this a little more. A big plus is if your spouse / significant other is in the same field. They can better understand the pressures and details of the job more than someone else would. The downside to this may be planning down time together like a vacation. If project deadlines overlap that can complicate things. It may mean someone has a working vacation and they are not as much fun.
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