Multiple roles: Work-life balance key to a productive employee
Dr Cosmas Mugambi
Attaining a satisfactory work-life balance is becoming increasingly elusive for many workers. Such balance does not mean devoting equal time to paid work and non-paid roles. In its broadest sense, is defined as a satisfactory level of involvement or ‘fit’ between the multiple roles in a person’s life.
Work-life balance can be broken down to four broad categories namely; role overload, work-to-family interference, family-to-work interference and caregiver strain. Truth is, work will often interrupt life and life will interrupt work. The challenge is finding a way to effectively integrate the two.
There was a time when the boundaries between work and life were fairly clear— a “normal” sleeping schedule was considered an average of nine hours per night. Today this has fallen to around seven hours.
Most employees point out two main factors that hurt work-life balance the most as time-related issues and the people they work with. Dependent variables include employee’s age, the age and number of their children, marital status, the profession and level of employment and income level.
With urbanisation, traffic jams and inflation, employees are torn between commuting to work, juggling heavy workloads, managing relationships and family responsibilities, and off work interests including “side hustles”.
In this rush to get it all done, employees end up sacrificing health, diet, physical fitness and families.
Adverse working conditions, such as job strain and effort–reward imbalance have been identified as key risk factors for poor health, including musculoskeletal conditions, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, weak immune systems and mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression and stroke.
Indeed, studies show that people who work 55 hours or more per week have a 1.3 times higher risk of suffering stroke than those who work standard hours.
Other personal and societal consequences of work-life imbalance include lower-life satisfaction, family strife and divorce, violence, drug abuse, growing problems with parenting and supervision of children and adolescents.
Organisational consequences of this imbalance are evident, including absenteeism, reduced productivity, decreased job satisfaction, low levels of organisational commitment and loyalty hence high employee turnover and rising healthcare costs for companies.
Today, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are replacing or, in some settings co-existing with communicable diseases. They are expected to cause 73 per cent of global deaths and 60 per cent of disease burden by 2020. Predisposing risk factors to NCDs are related to lifestyle to some degree, including inadequate rest, stress, obesity and lack of exercises.
Prevention or modification of these risk factors can be achieved through healthy lifestyles including food choices, rest and work-life balance.
When work-life balance is good and employees are happy, they are more productive, take fewer sick-off days, and are more likely to stay in their jobs. The worksite is an optimal place for promoting healthy lifestyles.
The workplace environment should emulate a healthy lifestyle environment made up of healthy food choices in the cafeteria, walking paths, stationary walking treadmill, a smoke-free policy, flexible working hours and leave arrangements, and on-site workout facilities and fitness classes, employee discounts at local gyms, provision of Fitbits and promotion of workplace health competitions.
The key to managing stress lies in that one magic word: balance. Yet one cannot manufacture time! At the individual worker level, consider this; cut or delegate some activities; keep a daily to-do list at home and at work so as to maintain focus; learn to say no—it’s okay to respectfully.
Also, set manageable goals each day; be efficient with your time at work; stagger your leave days across the year to allow cooling breaks; eat a healthy diet; get enough sleep; make time for fun and relaxation; participate in selective volunteering; bolster your social support system and exercise.The author is an implementation scientist based in Nairobi