If you have a 9 to 5 job, when was the last time you got off at 5 p.m.? And, you didn’t have to think about work until the following morning? Most likely, it has been a while. It could be that your child texts you at your morning meeting, making it nearly impossible to pay full attention to your coworkers. It could also be that you’re at the dinner table, but you remember that you need to prepare tonight for an important work meeting the next day.
You probably relate to this, and you're not alone. In fact, seven out of ten U.S. employees struggle with work-life balance, according to a study published by the American Sociological Review. Work-life balance can seem unattainable, no matter what industry, job, role, or seniority level you are employed in. However, what researchers found is that part of the problem is the concept of “work-life balance.” That’s where work-life blend comes into play. And, it’s time to give that a second glance.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BLEND AND BALANCE
Work-life balance entails separating your life into individual areas. You’re likely to separate your work meetings from meeting your friends for dinner. However, these components shouldn’t be treated separately, as what we do at home and work both significantly affect our lives. Furthermore, balance means needing to offset a negative component with something positive. But, neither your work life or home life should be treated as something to be neglected or frowned upon. Work-life blend addresses both of these problems.
So, what is the difference between work-life balance and work-life blend? While balance seeks to separate our lives into individual components, work-life blend is fluid and seeks to integrate our professional life with our personal life. It means finding ways to piece together your morning work meeting with the dinner date you have scheduled later in the day. It centers around flexibility and being able to mesh together our personal and professional lives into something that is manageable and enjoyable for you. That could mean getting off of work early on Tuesday for the dentist appointment you’ve been pushing off, but working an extra hour on Wednesday to make up for it. It’s all about making both yourself and your schedule flexible in order to fit in what you’re looking forward to each day.
BENEFITS OF WORK-LIFE BLEND
In 2017, the United States ranked 30th in a list of most positive work-life balances in 38 countries. It hasn’t improved much either. In fact, The American Institute of Stress reported that 83 percent of US workers suffer from work-related stress, costing U.S. businesses upwards of $300 billion annually. When work-related stress isn’t treated, it causes more than 100,000 deaths and $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly.
It’s apparent that work-related stress not only impacts the health of millions of U.S. workers, but also leads to detrimental effects on U.S. businesses. To remedy this, almost half of all U.S. worksites offer a wellness program for employees, according to The American Journal of Health Promotion 2017 report. Out of these companies, almost 30 percent offer a fitness wellness program, while 19 percent offer programs to help employees with tobacco addictions.
These wellness programs are a good starting point to provide employees with a working environment that fights against work-related stress. However, work-life blend has still not been addressed in many work environments. To achieve a blend, employers need to find ways to provide flexible work schedules for employees. While this may seem counterintuitive, the benefits are immense. For example, a Forbes study found that workplaces with flexible work schedules had employees who were more satisfied with their jobs. This led to increased productivity, fewer sick days, more hours worked, and happier workers.
STEPS TO ACHIEVE WORK-LIFE BLEND
While there are many steps workplaces can take to achieve work-life blend, there are even more steps you can take today.
1. Focus and check in on your wellness
The first step to achieve work-life blend is to acknowledge that it is your goal. This may seem like a no-brainer. However, research shows that only 43 percent of U.S. employees think their employers care about their work-life balance, according to The American Institute of Stress. It’s therefore important to acknowledge work-life blend by focusing on your health and wellness. If you feel stressed out one week due to something in your personal life, don’t be afraid to communicate with your employer, as many of them will be there to support you.
2. Set out your priorities in the beginning
It’s nearly impossible to fit in everything you want to achieve in one day. If you miss one or two things on your list, this could be enough to make you stressed. Therefore, pick out what you want to prioritize first, whether that’s fitness, reading, or self-care. Rather than accomplishing as much as possible, your day becomes more manageable. And, it’ll make you happier in the long run.
3. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your employer about your boundaries
Imagine your boss asks you to do something last-minute at the same time as your family dinner. If one of your priorities is to never miss a family dinner, communicate that to your boss. More likely than not, you will be able to find a middle ground that meets both of your goals. Part of finding a work-life blend is to communicate your priorities and boundaries to your boss.
4. Keep a flexible schedule
Despite your best attempts to achieve work-life blend, there will be times when things don’t work out as planned. It could be that you need to pick your child up from school early when you initially planned to make the finishing touches to your work project. Things will never always go to plan, and it’s important to acknowledge that and find a solution. It could be as simple as staying an extra hour working the next day.
5. Frequently reevaluate areas of improvement
When you first start the switch to work-life blend, it will most likely not be perfect. It’s important to reevaluate ways to improve your professional and personal lives, whether that’s setting a new boundary or identifying a new priority.