By Myrna Sachs, Head of Alexander Forbes Health Management Solutions
Work-life/play balance is defined as the ability to divide one’s time between working, family and leisure activities. There is much debate on the concept of ‘balance’ and the inconsistencies of what balance means to different people.
Research on this subject has looked into whether having or not having this balance is detrimental to one’s health at a later stage and if so; are there ways to bring each of these factors into a state of equilibrium.
One study, by Jenna Segal of Wits University, a South African Perspective on Work-Life Balance, says that “the individuals’ choice to balance life and work, and the degree to which organisations’ assist in these endeavours, affect that individual’s career, mental health, stress levels, as well as life satisfaction”. Stress is therefore undoubtedly one of the biggest health implications that arise out of the imbalance between work and life. Women still earn, on average, less than men and are more likely to have part-time jobs. This has an impact on the financial well-being of women.
Financial well-being and work-life balance play an important role in job satisfaction. To improve these two factors, employers would do well to address those employees with low levels of job satisfaction and subjective experiences of productivity.
Another note from Segal’s study is that the common theme which arises from the work-family balance research is that stress and conflict may occur between employee’s work role and family role (possibly as a result of work schedules, marriage, children, work orientation, and partner employment patterns).
The Mayo Clinic offers practical tips to manage the work/life/play balance which include: managing your time by organising tasks even the smaller ones such as housework; making lists of everything you need to accomplish every day as a practical way to not get sucked into other work or plans.
Another key guide is to learn to say no as a buffer in overextending yourself and it is important to make the conscious decision to leave work at work, this is especially difficult as technology has given us access to be working without being at work and ultimately creates the disparity in favour of work.
The United Kingdoms’ Mental Health Foundation survey found that one in three respondents feel either unhappy or very unhappy about the time they dedicate to work, and a staggering 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their lives because of work, which may increase their vulnerability to mental health problems. Researchers have also found that the more hours you dedicate to work, the more hours outside of work you are likely to spend thinking or worrying about it and lastly they found that as a person’s weekly hours’ increase, so do their feelings of misery.
If you feel overwhelmed by an imbalance within your work/play/life, then the best option would be to seek professional assistance in the form of a counsellor or other mental health care provider who are specifically trained to assist you in achieving equilibrium and ultimately allowing you as an individual to thrive.