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Career Advice Dissecting Work Life Balance

Copyright (c) 2010 Dorothy Tannahill Moran

Work-Life Balance is a somewhat newer term that has made its way to our consciousness in this past decade. WLB has sprung into our thinking due to the fact that so many of us work so hard and so long that we are starting to see the hazards of our behavior. Employers are looking at this issue as well and have been rapidly developing all sorts of programs to do their part to help mitigate the issues associated with a lack of WLB.

What is WLB?

Work-Life Balance is very individual in terms of how it is defined and what it means. A broad definition of it is essentially the amount of time and focus a person gives their work versus other aspects of their life. The reason it is very individual is that each person defines their own priorities continuously throughout their life, making it a constantly moving target. There are some similarities in larger age related groups such as the 20's and 30's being very involved in making a family life and at the same time growing a career. For those in their 50's and 60's their priorities tend to revolve around shifting to more personally meaningful and purposeful endeavors which may not have been present earlier in life.

Is there such a thing as WLB?

Now that WLB has become a more important social topic there is now an ongoing debate about the term itself. It probably won't be eliminated from our vernacular because it is so well understood compared to other terminology. The sensitivity to the term is somewhat of a back lash to the "over-sold" concept that once women in particular entered the work force, they could have it all BUT with a delicate balance. WLB, however, is not the sole concern of women as we are becoming increasingly aware of its impact on individuals.

Why is it important?

As a nation, we have come to understand that when a person doesn't feel like they are in control of conditions that affect their life, we tend to get a range of negative outcomes. Those reactions range from stress and fatigue to burnout or a form of personal break down. These conditions take a toll on the person including; physical impact, break down in relationships and work performance. We are complex beings and need to have an appropriate mix of these different elements in our life for us to feel fulfilled and also to perform at our best. In other words, a lack of balance will create problems that can be costly financially, emotionally and physically. These problems can also be irreversible.

Who is the "culprit" when it comes to a lack WLB?

Understand that WLB is not always a work environment issue. It is too easy to always place the blame on the business environment. The picture of the nasty boss over working the employee is simply a clique' and while is sometimes the case for a WLB problem, not always.There can be a "perfect storm" where an employee is either absorbed or compulsive enough that they easily create a trap of working 10 or 12 hours daily. Combine that condition with a fast paced business where there is always more work than resources, you get a person who allocates the majority of their waking time to their work.There is no "culprit" for a lack of WLB. Essentially, for each person WLB is defined differently and the set of work and personal circumstances go into the mix differently. That means the challenge of maintaining each aspect is unique. What works for one person will not necessarily work for another. We each have to continuously manage our boundaries and priorities.

How does a lack of WLB impact a person?

There is no area in a person's life that can't be negatively impacted by a lack of WLB. Just as the definition of WLB is unique to each person so are the likely impacts. In the past, you would hear stories of people who had dedicated so much of their life to work that they failed to make good family attachments or friends. There are two primary areas that are impacted when a person lacks some amount of WLB in their life.

The first: Work burn out - A person that has worked too long and too hard will often simply burn themselves out both personally and professionally. When this condition exists, it is difficult to recover without some type of intervention. From an employer's view point, they see an employee who can manifest issues like: a lack of interest, short temper, difficulty with others, lack of creativity, apathy and high potential for turnover. This problem can be costly in many ways. Good employers will want to ensure that they create structures and programs to help mitigate the issues associated with WLB.

The second: Stress - A person that is not maintaining a good mix of professional and personal focus can create stress. As we all know, stress when allowed to linger, can create side effects that will lead to health issues and personal distress. What can a person do to create greater balance in their life?Some people come by the ability to create boundaries and set their priorities very naturally, others simply don't. The ability to do that is the key success factor in maintaining a good WLB. For those people that don't maintain boundaries and priorities, they can find the challenge in doing that to be their own ability to say "no" to demands and pressures from others. Yet, without that level of personal strength, they will continually be on the run and potentially never feel like they are satisfying anyone. Like all personal change, the best way to approach a new set of behavior is to start with small steps that lead to real win's. If a person feels like they aren't spending enough time with their spouse, they can start by scheduling activities or blocking out time that is open for both people. Some people have to do things as simple as not checking email when they come home to create a real division between work and personal activities.

Work-Life balance is the kind of thing that if it's a problem in your life, you will know it. You may not be the first one with that knowledge as your loved ones may point it out or those at work. Finding the solutions may start with your own self analysis to understand the demands on your professional and personal life. Only then can you start the process of defining what actions you can take that will truly make a difference.

About Author Dorothy Tannahill Moran :

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Article Added on Wednesday, December 8, 2010
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