The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

YOUR GUIDE TO WORK LIFE BALANCE



The only constant today is change. With global competition, economic uncertainty, constant restructuring, changing culture and demographics just to name a few. Our world continues to accelerate in scientific and technological breakthroughs. Even the perception of world safety has changed due to terrorist events.

With all of these global changes, the nature of our workplace is changing as well. The workplace is even more competitive, we work longer and more varied hours. You need to be multi skilled. Security is something we don’t have in the workplace, however we are increasingly accountable for everything we do and we also have an increased reliance on technology.

Lifestyles are changing as a result too. We eat more fast/packages foods, exercise at gyms rather than through our occupation, we bank on line, we are entertained with high tech gagets. More women are in the workforce than ever before and more families will have no children.

What is the impact of all this change? As a result we have, less time for all our activities, great distraction, increased stress and it is much harder to maintain our balance. Our lives are imbalanced as a result.

Lets first have a look a what work life balances is?

Work-Life balance does not mean an equal balance. It is unrealistic to schedule an equal number of hours for each of your various work and personal activities is usually unrewarding and unrealistic. Your best individual work-life balance will vary over time, often on a daily basis. The right balance for you today will probably be different for you tomorrow or the next month or year. There is no perfect, one-size fits all, balance you should be striving for. The best work-life balance is different for each of us because we all have different priorities and different lives.

Characteristics of a balanced organisation

· Increased individual productivity, accountability and commitment
· Better teamwork and communication
· Improved morale
· Less negative organisational stress

Characteristics of a balanced individual

· More value and balance in your daily life
· Understanding of your best individual work life balance
· Increased productivity
· Improved relationships
· Reduced stress

There are obvious benefits for being balanced for both the organisation and the individual.
So the focus really is on YOU as balanced individuals lead to balanced organisations.

According to ‘Managing Work Life Balance International’ in their 2005 survey of Australian organisations they found:

· 9% have observed an increase in turnover due to long hours culture
· 77% believe the impact of work-life efforts is hindered by increased work demands overshadowing personal needs
· 35% have observed an increase in the average hours per week worked
· 28% indicated that had developed a work environment that fits in with their lifestyle demands

Only 28%!

So now that we have heard all the bad news, here is the good news. In the same research, they also found that those organisations that did have work life balance strategies and initiatives, showed significant improvements. Over 2005, they have found:

· Reduced turnover by an average of 3.6% compared with Best Practice Organisations
· Reduced absenteeism by an average of 3.8%
· Increased return rate from parental leave by an average of 21%; and
· Increased employee satisfaction by an average of 13%

So we can create balance and we can change all of this but it takes work at an individual level.

Below are the 7 key steps I believe are necessary to creating your own work life balance:

1. Create your ‘wheel of balance’
2. Give yourself credit for the areas that are working well
3. Highlight areas requiring work
4. Set goals
5. Develop a plan
6. Take action
7. Seek support and feedback from others

As we work through these steps we can take you from being characteristically unbalanced:

· less flexible
· see problems as threats rather than challenges
· our energy is consumed by worry and self doubt and we are unable to work towards self improvement
· we withdraw from new ideas and change is viewed as a personal threat

To being balanced person:

· have more of themselves to give to their top priorities
· feel less stress and guilt about what they’re not doing and more excited about the future
· have more fun and are more fun to be around
· appear to be more purposeful, and are more interested
· equip themselves so that they can experience a higher quality of life

Look out for further articles on each of the key steps to create the right balance for you.

Nicole McAuliffe is the Director of Creative Connections

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