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The New Work-Life Equation: Better Life for Better Work

There is more to life than the monotony of soul-crushing office work. In an article for The New York Times Magazine, Susan Dominus shares critical emerging insights on changing attitudes to the work-life equation that could rewrite what it means to be happy with your job. Make this a must-read.

The Case for Getting a Life

Phyllis Moen, a professor at the University of Minnesota, was made a widow while her children were still quite young. Her situation demanded for her to take on the role of financial provider as well as loving mother, a rather difficult feat. She and Erin Kelly, a professor at M.I.T., began to devote their lives to studying this work-life equation and find the perfect balance.

For a paper they published in American Sociological Review, they studied a technology department in an anonymous corporation. For the purposes of the study, half of the employees in the technology department were put into a control group that would continue to work under the company’s standard policies. The other half were told they could work whenever and wherever, as long as their work was completed on time and any goals were met. The results indicated that those in the second group completed their work just as efficiently and effectively as the first, but they were much happier, healthier people.

The good news is that most companies acknowledge that workers need some flexibility in their work life. In fact, 63 percent of employers allow “some” employees to work at home on occasion. Moen and Kelly believe that these policies are not being fully utilized because they still require employees to approach their managers and ask the manager for permission to work at their leisure, and the manager’s discretion is having a negative impact.

Reframing the Situation

The first step to bettering the system is to reconstruct the language used to explain why employees want a work-life balance. Employees need companies to understand that not only is their family time important, but their overall life needs to be balanced. Employers need to encourage more flexibility in the workplace. In a survey that spanned the entire nation, 96 percent of employees said they have some degree of flexibility in their job, but only 56 percent believed their employer is supportive of this flexibility. Additionally, 40 percent believed that those people who ask for time off, or to have a schedule that accommodated personal needs, are less likely to get ahead in the company.

With the current system, workplace stress or workplace guilt runs rampant, and it causes a negative impact on employee health. However, this idea of flexibility helps to eradicate the guilt and ultimately improve employee performance. What this all comes down to is cultural norms, and that workplace flexibility is only beginning to become a norm. Once more companies accept this as a viable option, there will be an increase in its use, and an overall balanced equation.

You can read the original article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/magazine/rethinking-the-work-life-equation.html

About Danielle Koehler

Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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