An introduction to Work-life balance

Acknowledging that work is a part of life helps us get the most out of both. If we get the balance wrong in favor of work, stress and burn-out commonly follow. It’s hard to find a family, a team or an organization that wins in this scenario.

6 Work life balance

Why it’s important

Having the right balance between work and other parts of life is widely recognized as an important part of health and wellbeing – and we’ve found it’s important for happiness at work too. Research shows that poor reported work-life balance is the strongest predictor of stress. Our own research has also found this link between work-life balance and stress, and we have even found that it predicts higher reported feelings of stress over time.

Higher reported stress in employees has many knock-on negative consequences for organizations, including increase sickness absence, accidents, and intentions to quit. Improving employee work-life balance will help reduce time spent away due to illness, improve safety and encourage people to stay.

Research on working hours and wellbeing suggests that wellbeing increases as the number of hours a person works increases. However beyond a certain point, additional hours worked have a negative effect on wellbeing, health and psychological health. Where that tipping point, from positive to negative outcomes, is appears to be different for different people, possibly partly depending on what other commitments they have outside of work as well as individual differences. Research has also shown that intensity of work, not just hours, also matters.

What one of our experts says

“Whenever I have analysed data on people’s happiness and wellbeing it has always been possible to identify “spill-over” effects - where one domain of life impacts another. When the time we spend working, including our commute, consistently crowds out other important activities, then it tends to become a real stress. Something will snap eventually.” Nic Marks, Friday

How we measure it

The term ‘work-life balance’ is sometimes considered contentious, but we use it because its easily understood to mean the fit between work and other aspects of life.

To measure how good people feel their work-life balance is, we ask:

Do you feel satisfied with the balance between your work and the other aspects of your life?

In the wording of this question we recognize that work is one aspect of life, and it is how participants perceive the balance between work and other parts of their lives which matters.

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