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Tottering on the Scales of Work/Life Balance

30 March 2013

Do you have multiple demands made of you on a daily basis?  Work, children, elderly parents, partner, housework, voluntary work and/or study?  When there are multiple competing responsibilities weighing on you, this places huge amounts of stress on you and your family.  Work-life conflict is a problem that impacts everyone.

 

According to a 2012 Canadian study of 25,000 employed participants on work/life balance, (“The 2012 National Study on Balancing Work and Caregiving in Canada” by Linda Duxbury, PhD, Professor, Sprott School of Business, Carleton University and Christopher Higgins, PhD, Professor, Ivey School of Business, University of Western Ontario), onein three respondents were considered to be in the ‘Sandwich Generation.’   
The Sandwich Generation is the one that spends time each week taking care of both children and aging parents.  Balancing that plus work and all other demands in their lives has made the balancing act between work and life balance extremely challenging. This problem seems to be one that is growing despite more awareness of the importance of work/life balance.
Two important demographic factors contributing to the growth of this Sandwich Generation are that people are waiting until their early thirties or older to have children and life expectancy has increased over time.  This means that the number of employees who are faced with balancing the demands of the three high energy roles, Employment, Childcare and Eldercare is likely to increase over the next decade. With this being a reality, employers need to give more tangible attention to work life issues in order to remain competitive.
So, what is work/life balance?  It is being able to meet the needs and wants of those who are important to you, including your own, in a realistic manner.  It’s a state of satisfaction and harmony within the areas of your family, work, social, health, financial and spiritual well-being.  Work/life balance means that you are able to enjoy the peace and harmony that comes from a balanced lifestyle providing you the opportunity to focus your energy and time on what is most important to you – not just what is urgently requiring your attention. 
So where do you start?  There is no quick fix for those who are pulled in multiple directions however keep in mind G.E.M., the following 3 mantras:
Gratitude – Energy – Management
Gratitude – adopt an attitude of gratitude for what you have rather than what you have not.  Be hopeful, never give up on what you are determined to achieve for yourself.
Energy – Surround yourself with people who provide you with energy rather than draining it away from you.  Maintain your physical energy by eating a healthy diet, drinking enough water, and take time to rest and relax.  Remember that YOU are the most important person in your life no matter who else is demanding your attention.
Management – Adopt the most effective way to manage your time.  Prioritise and schedule in specific times for your physical and mental recouperation.  Whether you follow the insights of Steven Covey with his First Things First principles or another method, find one that works best for you and stick to it.
Are there places where you can work that assist in the quest for valuable work/life balance?  Well, for your interest, according to the following May 2011 article in the Business Review Australia by Michaela McNamara, these are the top 10 places to work:
1.     Google
Apparently the best place to work on the planet! When Google succeeds, its employees succeed. In addition to a unique corporate culture of perks (think free daily lunches), fun and reward for its staff, Google boasts unparalleled facilities and conditions that make it one of the best environments to work in.
An ever bigger perk? Top notch salaries and bragging rights for working at the coolest company in the world—and one that values its employees above all else. On Google’s website, the company says, “Appreciation is the best motivation, so we’ve created a fun and inspiring workspace you’ll be glad to be a part of, including on-site doctor; massage and yoga; professional development opportunities; shoreline running trails; and plenty of snacks to get you through the day.”       
2.     Coca-Cola South Pacific
As one of the world’s most recognizable brands, you’ve got to give your employees perks—and Coke sure does. Aside from having access to all the Coke you could ever drink, Coca Cola holds meetings in some of the best properties on the planet. The 401K matching plan, stock and pension plans are quite generous.
3.     Morgan Stanley Australia
Though Morgan Stanley is a leading financial firm, its employees know how to relax and enjoy—thanks to company perks. Tenured employees receive up to six weeks of paid time off a year, and those employees who work 20 hours or more per week are eligible for flextime, job-sharing, compressed work-weeks, and telecommuting.
4.     Yahoo!7
Yahoo! is committed to empowering its employees through programs, products, and services that inspire them to make a positive impact on their communities. Yahoo! also channels the generosity of its employees through the Yahoo! Employee Foundation, a grassroots philanthropic organization that brings together the talents, time, and financial resources of employees.
5.     Ezypay
The outsourced direct debit service provider really cares about its “Ezyplayers,” offering everything from fresh snacks daily to Dollars for Dazzlers—an employee reward program where employees are rewarded for referring another star recruit to Ezypay. Staff are also eligible for weekly recognition awards, monthly “values” awards and quarterly target rewards.
6.     Deloitte
The benefits are endless. Policies are in place for flexible hours, telecommuting, parental leave and beyond. The company also offers all employees the option of salary sacrifice up to 10 days additional annual leave a year, in addition to the standard 20 days. Fitness and banking discounts are available through partner programs.
7.     Bluefin Resources
Here’s something you don’t hear often: “Unlike many agencies, you won’t find a culture of long working hours at Bluefin.” The recruitment agency empowers account managers to choose their own specialisation and grow their own areas. Employees can choose to pursue both new business and account management with no geographic boundaries.
8.     Russell Investments
Russell Investments values each associate as an individual—one with a life outside the company. Russell Investments believes “that people who have happy, fulfilled family lives make better associates.” They also receive an annual $1,000 lifestyle allowance to spend on any activity that enhances their wellbeing.
9.     Swaab Attorneys
The young law firm prides itself on offering leading edge technology and systems to make work more efficient and easier, as well as appropriate training with a generous subsidy for the cost of personal development. Swaab provides regular social events and in-house lunches with speakers and subsidised gym memberships.
10.  Altis Consulting
This company knows that happy engaged staff drives robust customer relationships and ultimately company success. Even though Altis Consulting competes in the information technology industry, a significant amount of the formal training and skills development opportunities are in the soft skills area which the company believes provides it with a competitive advantage.
It is heartening to know that there are employers who do their best to provide opportunities for growth, recognition and reward as well as work/life balance opportunities. 
What can you do to even out the demands made of you to create an even balance?
Jane is Director of Style Success, Coaching for Personal and Professional Success.  Follow her at www.facebook.com/careercoachsydney or visit www.stylesuccess.biz
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