Thursday, January 04, 2020

Barriers to Creating Work/Life Balance

A new survey of more than 1000 US employees suggests that it isn't just organizations that are getting in the way of improving work/life balance. Old habits and assumptions, corporate cultures, and even plain fear are blocking progress too.
It's not surprising that we are often our own worst enemies when it comes to making progress on work/life balance. That's the message from a new survey from Opinion Research Corp [via].

It seems that that old demon, an over-developed work ethic, together with peer pressure and fears of losing out on raises and promotions prevent many people from taking any action to improve the way they organize their lives between work and other demands. And that's without the additional problem of hostile bosses and negative workplace cultures.

Maybe that's why progress on this issue is still so slow, even though the vast majority of people see it as a real issue:
While an overwhelming nine out of 10 Americans (95%) agree that striking a balance between work and life is an issue for everyone – not just mothers - less than one in seven (15 per cent) say they actually achieved this balance.

Holding back the other 85 per cent are the old stereotypes about money, work and supervisors which mean that those New Year's resolutions about getting to grips with the work-life conundrum are bound to fail.
According to the survey, men and younger workers are particularly worried what others will think of them if they change the way they work. This peer pressure may, of course, be more imagined than real—they will never know what others think until they try it—it's clearly powerful in holding them back from change. This group is also more concerned that they might loose their jobs.

All these assumptions and biases continue to support the status quo. Worse still, they seem to prevent open discussion of the issues of work and other life choices:
. . . more than half of all those surveyed also said they have not discussed work-life balance with their supervisor, even though two-thirds acknowledged that it's not just the company's responsibility to create a flexibility-friendly work environment.
Until we can lessen people's fears that making any change will mark them out for persecution and derision, we won't make much progress in developing a more civilized way of organizing our workplaces.

That's why this kind of forum is so important. It helps people realize that they are not alone, that others will not automatically assume they are shirkers, and that there is far better justification for seeking civilized organizations than for sticking with the way things are.

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Anthony Riley said...

One aspect I have spent a great deal of time on (since it is my dissertation topic) is the role of work identity with organization behavior and the difficulty employees experience in changing situations. Since this is a continually reinforced, ingrained trait it seems reasonable that this balance, though desired, will take some time to change.

In addition to corporate culture and the individual's motivation to work longer and not achieve a balance, another aspect I have found is the management 'bait-and-switch.' Not only in my own research, but from personal experience, I have run across managers who tout that their department, team, etc. is different by allowing their employees more flexibility. Meanwhile the manager works long hours and promotes those who do the same further supporting all employee's need to follow suit.

3:56 PM  
Carmine Coyote said...

Great comment, Anthony. Thank you.

This is something that I intend to return to in future postings.

Keep reading, my friend.

4:32 PM  

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