When it comes to defining career success, U.S. workers report achieving balance between the personal and professional is giving promotions, autonomy at work and even compensation a run for their money. In fact, 56% of workers report they define career success by their ability to obtain work/life balance. Beyond just wanting the opportunity to enjoy life, more workers than ever have responsibility of caring for others, whether it be children, elderly parents, aunts, or uncles, spouses, or adult children with disabilities, including returning veterans. Even employers recognize that a balance can benefit the bottom line, noting that a handful of balanced employees who perform at their peak is better than a dozen employees who operate at 50% efficiency. So why has balance become the the new black of career success, and just how do we achieve it?
“Without a steady stream of fresh thinking, businesses become stale and stagnant. This is a dollar and cents issue for an employer.” ~ Leah Steer, Co-Founder Managing People Better
The Benefits of Balance
We want it all: a healthy, happy personal life along with a successful career. Yet for 80% of workers, ‘having it all’ is a struggle. It’s no secret that there’s a lot of stress and guilt associated with the pursuit of work-life balance. Between the average U.S. worker spending over 42+ hours a week at work, an “always-on” lifestyle that has the average worker checking email 150 times a day, while taking less than half of the vacation time that Europeans do; its no wonder 43% of adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
All that stress comes with a real price tag for business, too: workplace stress costs U.S. employers an estimated $300 billion per year in absenteeism, lower productivity, medical insurance and other stress-related expenses. But working together, both employers and employees can enjoy big benefits.
Ensuring there’s time to engage in non-work activities can fuel idea generation, Co-Founder of Managing People Better, Leah Steer told American Express’ Open Forum. “Without a steady stream of fresh thinking, businesses become stale and stagnant. This is a dollar and cents issue for an employer.” More time-off isn’t the only way to find that time, though. Scheduling small blocks of “down time” during the day for individual mental resets, handling personal matters, getting exercise in or touching base with family can help bring balance while managing work responsibilities. Outsourcing tasks, such as office dry-cleaning pickup and Amazon Prime memberships can also help free up time by delivering items rather than going shopping for them. Google says the “secret sauce” to bringing balance is by “removing barriers so Googlers can focus on the things they love, both inside and outside of work.” They do this through things like on-site healthcare, travel assurance and emergency assistance, extended time off and financial assistance following the birth of a child, tuition reimbursement for coursework associated with a job and other perks.
Other companies try to help ease the strain trying to balance work and personal obligations can bring by building in amenities on their campuses. Eli Lilly for example, has many amenities to help bring balance to their employees, including cafeterias, a credit union, health services, copying services, dry cleaning, shoe repair, CoffeeZon, a convenience store with photo processing and movie rental, a fitness center, two day care centers, employee activity clubs and shuttle services to nearby Lilly plants.
The Often Overlooked Issue Behind Balance
While employing life hack style strategies and employer amenities are welcome perks which can certainly help reclaim time on our calendars, it’s worth noting there’s often a bigger issue at play. Work-life balance often really becomes an issue when our jobs do not align with the rest of our lives. When what we’re doing makes sense as far as aligning with our own beliefs and values, its no longer something that detracts from life. Instead, work becomes energizing, and actually brings balance into our lives. When the job you are in does not align with who you are, it creates internal conflict. So the real issue to tackle is often not work-life balance, but finding the job that compliments your life and aligns with your values, elevating your career experience.
If your idea of balance isn’t met by your current company culture, it could be seriously interfering with your happiness and lifestyle. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost, but it does mean that it would be beneficial to take a look at where your personal values align and contrast with that of your workplace. Sometimes simply talking to your employer about your needs can be sufficient to creating a workplace experience that offers the flexibility to achieve the balance you need. However, if there is a fundamental clash between your personal values and company culture, it may be prudent to consider making a career change.
Researching company culture and how it aligns with your values can help ensure a more motivating, balanced work experience. But if that sounds like more work in what’s likely an already overloaded schedule, fear not! At Elevated, we have researched the company’s cultures whose jobs are listed on our site and use that information to match you up with the most compatible employers. Simply filling out our questionnaire can help you get on your way to a more balanced life and elevated career experience.