What’s Missing from Work-Life Balance

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With Flexibility and Respect, Your Work-Life Blend Emerges

work-life balance: woman working on computer with baby next to her

The term “work-life balance” first emerged in the 1970s or 1980s as a plank in the Women’s Liberation Movement, advocating for flexible schedules and maternity leave for women. With working professionals everywhere struggling to define and achieve it for themselves, the concept then quickly morphed into a gender-neutral priority for human resources departments and C-suite executives alike. 

Today, work-life balance refers to the methods an individual uses to juggle the demands of their professional and personal lives, and how they separate time spent in and outside of work. HR staff, meanwhile, have been tasked with helping employees incorporate strategies for effective time management, stress reduction and burnout prevention. (According to Harvard Business Review, approximately $190 billion is spent each year to address the physical and psychological effects of burnout alone.)

Rightfully so:

In an effort to facilitate better work-life balance, more than half of all US companies offered some sort of health program by 2017; yet, two years later, more than half of US workers reported still having poor work-life balance.

In a recent ranking of positive work-life balance across 38 countries, the US ranked 30th. 

In other words, it’s been four decades and something isn’t working. We need to reconsider how we think about and structure the work day, the work week, and our lives — for improved health and happiness, more effective employees, and stronger businesses. 

Mac laptop, bowl of  green grapes, bottle of natural supplement, and hand with pen writing in journal

Flexibility and Work-Life Blend

An alternative to the dichotomous work-life balance is the newer, more integrated approach known as work-life blend. As opposed to drawing a concrete distinction between work and life, and identifying priorities that fall under each, work-life blend is designed to desegregate the professional and personal life, with a focus on flexibility — the flexibility to do your work on your own time in a way that meshes with your non-work schedule.

For the modern day worker, work-life blend more closely aligns with the way they envision their jobs and their lives. 

As we highlight in our ebook on remote work

  • More than three quarters of workers say they’d be “more loyal” to their employers if they offered flexible work options
  • 97% of employees are looking to be a “flexible worker” in the long term
  • Nearly seven out of every 10 members of the fastest growing segments of the workforce are willing to trade other work benefits for flexible workspace options
  • Companies that provide their employees flexible work options experience 25% less turnover

For Millennials and members of Gen Z, who will comprise 58% of the workforce by 2028, the ability to blend work and life is an even greater priority. 

  • Almost one in three Millennials have left a job because it did not offer enough flexibility
  • Nearly 90% would consider taking a pay cut to work for an organization whose values align with their own

As Claire Cain Miller and Sanam Yar stated in The New York Times, “for millennials, work is a thing, not a place.”

Flexibility no longer means what it did to older generations — the ability to work from home when a plumber is coming or a child is sick. But it’s also not about 21st-century perks like free meals, on-site dry cleaning and Wi-Fi-equipped shuttles that help keep people at work longer. Instead, it’s about employees shaping their jobs in ways that fit with their daily lives.

The New York Times

Talent professionals have taken notice, with nearly 75% reporting that work flexibility is “very important” to the future of human resources and recruiting. Millennial and Gen-Zers, specifically, are approximately twice as likely as Baby Boomers to have significantly invested in developing a flexible talent strategy. 

work-life balance: father on a couch eating from a bowl while on his laptop computer, with his two kids playing nearby on the same couch

The Business Case for Work-Life Blend

With increased freedom and flexibility, employees:

  • Schedule work when they can be most focused and productive
  • Take less vacation time, and often work when traveling
  • Feel empowered by the implicit trust of their managers and company leadership
  • Take breaks when they need to
  • Take fewer sick days

For businesses, this means higher morale, increased productivity, and greater profits. (As Forbes noted in February 2020, the work itself improves by up to 40%!)

Starting with Respect

Thanks to modern technology, the modern job is no longer a 9 to 5; the work we do informs our identity — and “can be linked to [our] overall wellbeing.”

This is why “more companies are offering sabbaticals; free plane tickets for vacations; meditation rooms; exercise or therapy breaks; paid time off to volunteer; and extended paid family leave” (The New York Times).

So how do we determine what we, as individuals, need? How do executives and HR professionals ensure that the types of flexibility they’re offering jibe with the needs employees have identified? 

It starts with respect or, as we like to call it, work-life respect — and this includes employers’ respect for their employees, workers’ respect for each other, and our own respect for ourselves. 

two male BIPOC office workers shaking hands

Facilitating Work-Life Respect 

For Employers:

As we explain in our ebook on diversity and inclusion, it’s not enough to build a diverse workforce; the people you hire need to feel they are treated fairly and respectfully, are known and appreciated for their unique value, and belong to the group.

Research from Deloitte has shown that “the more included an employee feels, the more likely they are to be at work and to receive a higher performance rating.” Gartner, meanwhile, found that highly inclusive organizations are 120% more capable of meeting financial targets and generate 1.4 times more revenue and 2.3 times more cash flow per employee.

In an increasingly young, global and diverse workforce, this means showing all of your employees that you care about their needs and listen to their opinions. So, instead of creating a workplace flexibility policy from the top down, consider engaging your middle managers and their teams in the conversation to truly understand what would most help your employees thrive — and grow with the company, instead of leaving for another opportunity. Then, create your flexibility policy together, fostered around respect for each other’s unique work and lifestyles.

For Employees:

As individual employees, we all have times when we struggle with time management and stress, and the first step in preventing burnout and maximizing the emotional ROI of our jobs is identifying the right blend of work and non-work activities. 

As MBL VP Business Development Tracy Avin recently wrote in Forbes, “if you take a step back and prioritize your personal and professional responsibilities, you can set boundaries between the two and ultimately find respect for your time.”

Essentially, this means: 

  1. Setting micro and macro goals
  2. Scheduling and organizing
  3. Setting boundaries
  4. Iterating 
  5. Refining
Work-Life Respect: Make Times for What Matters

The MBL Difference

If you’re looking to broaden, strengthen and/or fine tune your organization’s flexibility and work-life strategies and want help streamlining and optimizing the process, there’s no better solution than MBL.

At MBL, we are a true partner. We think of our work as building relationships, not as a business transaction. It’s our mission to learn as much about your company and its needs as possible, so we can act as your guiding force. We will share our vast network of partners, carriers, technology and wellness providers, and more, so you can diversify your talent pipeline, foster employee satisfaction and inclusion, and boost your bottom line.

The MBL Difference: Consult with Our Advisors

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