Work and life, are to terms dependent on each other. Only a living being can work and on the other side, there can be no life without work, even in imagination. In nature, the relation and balance between work, leisure, and life are maintained with no difficulty as the natural rules are made like this. All the organisms follow this rule and never find any stress in their lives. All living things except human beings have always preferred to stay within this natural balance. But, we, the humans, have created a world of ours and while doing so in every step we have fought against the natural rules. As a result, we have been out of balance; our work, leisure, and different spheres of life have stepped into each other’s territory and we have been exposed to severe stress (Skyttner 2007).
For humans, it is not a question of work and leisure lives. To earn our livings, we need to pursue a professional life, we have families and relations with whom we have to maintain a good family life and we are social creatures, so we have to maintain certain social commitments too. In the end, as living beings, it is obviously necessary to have one’s own time for physical and mental relaxation. That is why humans are supposed to juggle and balance all those lives like balls in order to stay happy. It is a continuous process. No way can it be stopped. Though sounding tough we can happily manage and are managing the balance. But when the weight of one of the balls becomes more than the other the balance is disturbed, hampering the entire process, and conflicts, stress, and other stress-related phenomena start showing up (Sussland 2006).
In today’s highly competitive world work and its load are never like they were before. Previously it was quite simple maintaining the balance between work and family life. But today the world has become so competitive that all the companies have increased their workload manifolds. At the same time to reduce the employee costs, they have reduced the number of employees. That has resulted in the pressure of more than one employee’s workload to be imposed on a single person. The companies want the best of results and they keep pressurizing the employee to perform more and more. The employee also has a fear of losing a job on non-performance, so he/she gave extra time to work extra hours for the company. The company gains and in most cases they reward the company with different perks or money. But on one side the employee never gains the “life” that lies with the family and that time that is needed for leisure is completely missed out. The responsibilities of today’s family lives have also increased in proportion with the professional life. Bringing up children is never the same as before as every day a new issue about young children is surfacing and all of them are equally important. As a result, there is tremendous stress generated from the grievances of family and friends and a tired, exhausted body and mind (Bramham 1999).
Previously it was natural to have one of the parents in the family, especially the father working and the mother taking care of the households and children. Even if the mother had a profession her focus used to be mainly on children. But now it has almost become impossible to manage with the earning of only one person as the expenses are touching the sky. When there are children in the house there are expenses and increasing every day. To maintain an affordable lifestyle in today’s world it is a demand of time that both the parents work and to the full extent. Therefore, women had to join the workforce. It is not that all the women have joined the workforce to meet up the family and children’s expenses. Women have always been talented workers in different fields and sometimes better workers than men. They have a career that they have chosen at their will. Some single mothers are also there who work happily to bring up their children. But when a woman has a family, the problem is the same everywhere. Working long hour means missing out on the time to be spent with children and children spend the day with the caregiver (Cheese, Thomas & Craig 2007).
It is an emotional setback for both the mother and the children. And, her setbacks don’t end only with not giving time to children. In maintaining a house there arise numerous issues and there are thousands of more duties to be performed. Sadly, women are supposed to take care of all of them single-handedly. Though men today are sharing responsibilities in running the house and bringing up children, the major chunk of these jobs stays with women, whether she is working or not. Getting all of them done in the scheduled period of time runs in the back of the mind and exerts huge tension. When all these combines with fatigued body and mind due to ever-lengthening working hours, it becomes too much to handle. Some women are fortunate to find a solution to all these and continue with their career but many of the talented women employees opt to leave the flourishing career or find out something gentler to be done from home (Gambles 2006).
Now, the companies started realizing that they are losing a huge chunk of talented women employees due to these issues. That was a loss to them. They had provided training to their employees and were going so well with them. Suddenly if some of them quit the company it means finding out a new set of employees, providing them with training, and giving them some time to start performing. The speed of progress gets a jerk and that too with no assurance that this will not be repeated. So, they have decided to find out a solution that can keep their women employees working for them (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe and Jackson 2008). The companies are offering toady their employees a new perk called the work/life balance perk as a retention tool for their employees. The work/life balance is a very relevant and much talked about issue nowadays and there are varied opinions regarding it. Some of the leading companies provide their employees with different facilities that allow them to spend more time with the family and have enough time to spend on themselves. This is done to prevent the of moral the employee from going down due to the stress generated from not being able to complete the household things or not being able to give enough time to the children (Firth 2005).
These facilities might include anything ranging from a shorter working week to paid holidays. Rewards in the form of money have been there always and will be there, but the women generally choose the other perks which allow them to meet up the severe time crunch they face in everyday life. And therefore, women employees’ bargain with the companies that want to hire their talents with something more than money today (Ridge 2007). These perks keep them upbeat and an upbeat employee means a better performing company. Companies also accept these demands and offer a variety of facilities as they don’t want to lose the benefit of having an experienced and efficient employee in their team. S. Brent Ridge writes “Google offers onsite laundry, gyms, car washes and free ski vacations to its employees. …. just like everyone else” (Ridge 2007).
After all, dedicated women employees keep no stone unturned while working for the company, so the company needs to care for their needs too. Now, there arises one question, is the work/life balance perk designed for women only or does it have an implementation on men also? Though sometimes somewhere it is said that the work/life balance is a perk designed for women only it is actually not the case. Men also definitely need a balance between their professional work and life outside the professional cycle (Firth 2005). They face immense stress due to long hours of working too. With the increasing expenses for maintaining life and women needing to work professionally the responsibilities for men in the household and parenting have increased. In parenting, it is equally required that the father gives the children equal quality time like the mother for their proper emotional development. Men share these responsibilities with care and seriousness. That results in a need to balance between the two lives in men also. The work/life balance holds true for everyone. Danielle Savage in European PWN quotes the words of the US-based Families and Work Institute president and co-founder Ellen Galinsky who said clearly “In the long run, having a rewarding life at home is good for work life and having a rewarding life at work is good for home life” (Savage 2007).
According to the main feature of the November 28, 2005 edition of Fortune magazine, GET A LIFE, men are working extremely stretched hours. They do not have a peaceful holiday because everybody is available everywhere today and anywhere they go they have to carry the office along with them. The feature states that the working week has extended to 80 hours in place of 60 hours and the electronic interactions have reached infinity. Business organizations tend to forget that their employees are human and they can’t work 24/7 like a machine. Alright that the organizations reward monetarily their employees but that definitely is not the answer to all these inhuman stressful working hours. Lack of time to spend with family, inability to get rid of the tension throughout the week due to ever-increasing workload, and lack of relaxation takes a bigger toll on men than these rewards can compensate. When this immense work pressure is combined with some mandatory duties to be performed for the family the stress goes out of the limit (Miller 2005). That is the point where conflicts of different kinds originate. That is why there is a need for work/life balance for men to the same extent also as it is for women. It is high time now for men to go for a work/life balance in whatever jobs they are pursuing. They would be able to live a quality life with a relaxed mind, better health, and more time to spend for personal purposes if they trade income for time (Firth 2005).
Though the perk of work/life balance is a need for everyone irrespective of gender it has faced different types of adversities also. It is not a new thing being marked as a perk for women and the necessity of men to have a balance between the two is generally neglected. In her book “The Myth of Work-Life Balance: The Challenge of Our Time for Men, Women and Societies” (2006), Richenda Gambles expresses concern over the fact that the economic growth and competitive environment today have led many to believe that the lack of time and problems related to it are rather insignificant in front of the economic progress achieved today. But it is not realized widely that progress is coming at the cost of the people working in the system (Gambles 2006).
The ray of hope comes through the fact that the young workforce today is quite aware of the consequences of the imbalance between work and life. They, therefore, opt for quality time rather than monetary gains and prefer keeping themselves relaxed when they are not on duty. The young employees, both men, and women prefer to look at the benefits package as an integral part of their salary package. In the future, we can hope that a path to the perfect work/life balance will be discovered.
Bramham, J., 1999. Benchmarking for people managers: a competency approach. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, London.
Cheese, P., Thomas, R., & Craig, E., 2007. The talent powered organization: strategies for globalization, talent management and high performance. Kogan Page Publishers, London.
Easterby-Smith, M., Thorpe, R. and Jackson, P. R., 2008. Management research. 3rd edition, Sage, London.
Firth, D., 2005. Life and work express. Capstone Publishing, Plymouth.
Gambles, R., 2006. The myth of work-life balance: the challenge of our time for men, women and societies. John Wiley & Sons, London.
Miller, J., 2005. GET A LIFE! Web.
Ridge, S., 2007. Balance: The New Workplace Perk. Web.
Savage, D., 2007. Poll debrief: Social interaction crucial for Work-Life Balance. Web.
Skyttner, L., 2007. General systems theory: idea & applications. World Scientific Publishing, London.
Sussland, W., 2006. Connected: a global approach to managing complexity. Thomson Learning, London.