Work Life Balance

Work-life balance has become one of the most sought after aspects of a job. Since the pandemic, Aviva found that more workers say that what attracts them to a job is work-life balance (41%), ahead of salary (36%). A survey in 2021 also found that 65% of jobseekers prioritised a work-life balance over salary. Yet, finding this balance seems to be a real challenge.

In a world that is all encompassed by technology, it’s easy to reply to messages or emails outside of working hours, on your commute to work, or even on holiday. And unfortunately, this has become the norm. There’s an expectation that work is the priority: you should always be ‘switched on’. Ioana Lupu, associate professor of accounting and management at Paris’ ESSEC Business School, says “It became quite ideological, this idea that, being busy, being constantly available makes you a really good professional,” she says. “We saw the best entrepreneurs bragging that they work 100-hour weeks … There was this idea that long hours would show you were committed and a good worker.”

And this is where we see hustle culture rearing its ugly head through the window. Hustle culture is the idea that working hard is what equals success and that there’s always more to work for, more money or a promotion. The life part of work-life balance disappears. But, this was pre-pandemic. During and after the pandemic there was a change in the way people worked. Remote working was the new norm. Everyone went to their homes, created new work from home spaces and off they went.

Employees are prioritising their work-life balance. And for good reason. A poor work life balance has been found to affect your mental health, with performance at work being negatively affected. A survey conducted by Mind Share Partners in 2021 found that employees reported work related stress, with an average of 8 mental health days being taken each year.

How is a strong work-life balanced achieved when work can be an incredibly stressful environment?

The opportunity for flexible working, or working from home, seems to be what most workers see as the key to establishing a healthy work-life balance. A study conducted by FlexJobs found that 87% just being given the option of working from home positively affected their work-life balance. As well as remote work, flex work, mental health days and a compressed schedule (think of the 4 day working week trials and the positive impacts this has had!) improved employees work-life balance.

Working from home has the most benefits, with little things like household chores, walking the dog, working out, prepping dinner or cooking a hearty lunch, or an appointment being easy to do when working from home. It gives you the freedom and convenience to carry out what might be seen as a better work-life balance. But, an article in Forbes pointed out that this definition we all seem to have for work-life balance is more work-life convenience. And these two things are not synonymous of each other. Studies have shown that people who work from home often work more hours than office workers. This is probably down to an inability to then separate work from home, and the two things puddle into one meaning removing yourself from work when at home is more challenging. Work becomes associated with home. So, as the Forbes article concludes, although working from home provides freedom, that freedom does not always come with balance.

Instead, to achieve this balance is to not work too many hours. Studies show that working more than 45 hours a week is detrimental to physical and mental health, with a 38-hour week producing the happiest employees. And creating this balance comes from employers allowing the separation between work and life. Making sure employees switch off after working hours, not asking for extra time out of their personal lives to be given to the job, and allowing workers the flexibility they need to live their lives.


Written by: Megan Emily Phillips for H W Martin & Co LLP


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