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Work-life balance is equally important for all

Work-life balance is commonly assumed to be relevant only for women at work. In reality, it is an essential aspect for everyone.

Why should work-life balance only be a “woman’s problem”? Don’t we all desire a harmonious life that lets us wear different hats at different times?

It is often seen that people who work constantly are less creative and are able to spot problems less often. Work-life balance is therefore not just relevant for women as is usually assumed but plays a vital role in enhancing productivity and attain mindfulness.

In an era of technology and social media where staying connected is a compulsion, it has become increasingly difficult to separate one’s personal and professional lives. It can be tough to make time for family, friends, spirituality, personal growth, self-care and other personal activities, in addition to the demands of the workplace. Employers have started realizing the risk of a burnout or the growing dissatisfaction among their employees juggling multiple roles.

Poor work-life balance diminishes productivity

Palash*, an IT employee, recalls his job in Bengaluru: “Other than spending 10 to 12 hours in office, I was also commuting for three hours daily. The stress took a toll on my health and I realized that despite spending hours at my desk, I was actually low on productivity because I was perennially exhausted.” Eventually, Palash faced stress-related health problems and had to take a close look at how the lack of downtime was doing neither his health nor his career any good.

Work-life balance is not gender specific

While women, especially working mothers have made employers realize the necessity of flexibility at work, all employees need help to attain a good work-life balance, irrespective of their gender. Long periods of continual multi-tasking often lead to stress damaging physical and emotional health over time. A 2018 Forbes report talks about how being overworked can actually be fatal to health with a higher risk of exposure to heart failure and stroke.

Anjan*, an employee working in the automobile sector, talks about how equality is often a misunderstood term when it comes to providing flexibility for male employees. “When my son was born, my wife, who is a corporate lawyer, was on her maternity leave. Before it was about to get over, I decided to talk to my superiors requesting leave for a few days followed by the option of working remotely for a couple of months. During the process of communicating my thoughts, I realized that parenting is unfortunately still primarily considered a mother’s duty. Most organizations don’t understand the concept or importance of paternity leave since we have been socially conditioned to assume that fathers have a limited role in bringing up children.”

With a newborn and a job that needed him to be accessible round the clock, Anjan realized that he was unable to do justice to either role. “I was getting irritated at the smallest of things, my concentration was at an all-time low, and my physical and mental health was getting affected,” he says. In a unique turn of events, he chose to take a sabbatical as his wife continued working. “I am planning to write a book on the biases faced by stay-at-home dads soon.”

Number of working hours do not guarantee productivity

Contrary to what is generally assumed, putting in more hours in the office does not make you a better worker. The ability to solve problems creatively does not after all increase in direct proportion to time spent at desk. In a 2017 survey by the Association of Executive Search Consultants, 85% of recruiters saw candidates reject a job offer that didn’t include enough work-life balance.

Sonia* recalls her tenure in a BFSI organization that had made it mandatory for every employee to avail two weeks of annual leave. “At the time of recruitment, we were clearly communicated that we had to apply for annual leave every financial year. We were requested to do it a month in advance at least so as to ensure sufficient time for others to plan their duty roster. In case any of the employees didn’t fill the leave application, the employee along with his/her manager received an email from the HR partner seeking an explanation. The company policy also mentioned that the staff on leave was not obliged to respond to emails or calls unless it was an emergency situation.”

It has become imperative for an organization to prioritize work-life balance policies as part of its culture sans any gender bias. This can be done by framing policies that encourage flexible work schedules, paid time off, clear time and communication expectations, and company-sponsored family outings and activities. This would enable an employee to attain the desired state of work-life parity leading to enhanced creativity and improved performance. For an organization, this would not only attract fresh talent but also lead to higher rates of retention, lowering costs related to new recruitment and medical expenses of an employee.

*First names alone used for privacy reasons.