Workplace stress is the most frequently cited reason U.S. employees want to leave their jobs, and this mental toll is often believed to be a result of long, grueling work days.
Yet, since 1950 the number of hours worked by U.S. employees have actually decreased from 1,900 per year to less than 1,790. Only 11.13% of U.S. employees work more than 50 hours per week (a decrease of 0.4% since 2004), while innovative technologies have dramatically increased productivity and efficiency.
So, we’re working less and have better tools and resources than ever before; why then, are so many organizations increasingly struggling to in-still a healthy work-life balance? As employees, we crave that healthy middle ground between career, leisure, sleeping, eating, personal work, chores/errands and dedicated time with friends and family. Ruling out hours worked, what’s hampering our ability to find this balance?
We turn to week’s Talent Acquisition Fast Facts to locate the roots of work-life imbalance:
According to TIME, between 1986-1996 work-life balance was mentioned 32 times total in the top 100 newspapers and magazines around the world. In 2007, the same publications mentioned work-life balance 1,674 times.
- Today, a quick “work-life balance” search via Google returns more than 388,000,000 results; although the shift from print to online may skew the numbers, the increase clearly shows the new-found focus on and dedication to helping professionals achieve work-life balance.
Monster.com recently polled 2,293 full-time professionals, asking the question: “Which soft benefit (non-financial) is most important when looking for a new job?”
- 69% of respondents selected flexible work schedule/work-life balance.
According to Accenture, which surveyed 4,100 business executives, more than 50% believe work-life balance ranks ahead of money/compensation, recognition and autonomy as the key determinant of a successful career.
Each day, U.S. employees devote an average of 14.27 hours (66%) to personal care (eating, sleeping, etc.) and leisure (socializing with friends or family, hobbies, television use, etc.).
- For employees working a set nine-hour day (8:00 am – 5:00 pm), this leaves approximately 44 minutes of daily free time to accomplish other tasks, work late, commute to and from work, among others.
To gain insight into what drives employee well-being, Horizons Workforce Consulting surveyed 2,000 professionals within the U.S. workforce—asking them to rank their many different “life roles in order of priority.” The cumulative results were:
4.) Religious Observer
In addition, 54% of respondents say personal life impacts well-being more than all other factors (personal or professional); job satisfaction accounted for just 13%.
This research seems to suggest that finding the right balance moves well beyond the workplace; that employee well-being (healthy work-life balance) involves much more than respondents’ jobs. Are there strategies or support systems organizations can offer to reduce stress and/or improve employees’ well-being?
The Work Family Institute recently interviewed 1,000 employed U.S. professionals, finding 55% felt overwhelmed by how much work they do each day.
- However, also according to this study, it’s much more than long hours that make people feel overworked; feelings of overwhelm are also sparked from frustration with culture, poor communication, lack of trust in management and pressure of the job.
- According to Deloitte’s Core Values and Culture Survey, surveyed respondents believe “regular and honest conversation” and “access to management” outweigh compensation as influencers of workplace culture.
According to the aforementioned Accenture study, more than 75% of surveyed executives believe technology enables them to be more flexible with their schedules; 80% believe having this flexibility is integral to achieving a strong balance between work and personal life.
That said,many also believe the amount of mobile technology (laptops, iPads, smartphones, etc.) has actually hurt work-life balance, as employees now feel pressured to take work home. Do you feel strongly one way or the other?
At Google, leadership surveyed 4,000 of their employees across all locations to gauge work-life balance. They found that 69% of the workforce is unable to draw boundaries between work and personal life; expressing thoughts such as, “It is difficult to tell where my work life ends and my non-work life begins.”
These 69% have been defined as people who feel work is always looming in the background, are always checking email, and hitting refresh to see if new work has come in. To build a better balance, for example, Google’s Dublin, Ireland office instituted a program called “Dublin Goes Dark.” Employees must leave all work devices at the front desk when they depart the office each evening.
Work-life balance goes far beyond schedule; it involves issues such as trust in leadership, culture, engagement, personal happiness, family and yes, compensation. Is achieving work-life balance more on the employee or the employer, and what do you feel most influences it? How do you personally disconnect from work when off the clock? Is it possible to stay connected 24/7 and still have a healthy personal life?
We’d love to hear your thoughts!