Mission Impossible? Balancing Work & Life

Posted by on July 5th, 2016

These days, everyone likes to talk about “work-life balance”—unfortunately, often with derision and followed by “is impossible to achieve.” TV producer Shonda Rhimes recently said during a commencement speech at Dartmouth, “Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life.” At a recent campaign stop, Hillary Clinton said, “Costs are greater, everything from commuting time to feeling like if you take that vacation day, you are going to be viewed as slacking off.”

So at a time when many people feel pressured to work harder, longer hours, and commit less of themselves to the rest of their lives, is work-life balance an achievable or even realistic goal? Understanding how addressing the work-life imbalance might give them a competitive edge, some companies are changing their policies to allow employees more flexibility. In a recent NIH study published in American Sociological Review, Phyllis Moen of the University of Minnesota and Erin Kelly of MIT discovered that companies that allowed employees to decide when and where they would work, requiring only that projects were finished on schedule and goals were being met, not only saw no decrease in productivity, but had much happier employees who were less likely to seek jobs elsewhere. Additionally, companies also saw benefits when managers where trained to be supportive of the staffs’ needs and priorities outside of work.

As the economy and job numbers continue to steadily improve, we may find that more and more companies start adapting these kinds of policies in order to attract and retain the best talent. And with modern technology allowing many jobs to be performed from anywhere, the idea of work being defined by the number of hours spent at a specific location will probably soon start to look pretty antiquated.