Work-life balance is only applicable in good economic times. Discuss

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Work-life balance is a situation where people who are employed have to balance between careers and domestic chores. In developed economies, it is often a tricky thing to maintain flexibility in a work environment where one is expected to multi-task. In order for work-life balance to make sense, people have to take into consideration the needs of the job as well as the family. Although this understanding may exist in many working situations, it is often difficult to act upon the expected professional and domestic and maintain excellence in both roles, especially during worsening economic times.

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The main problem with multitasking, argues (Barbara2006, p. 12) is that in most cases, the traditional professional setting is suited for someone who is not juggling between family and work. However, in today’s professional settings, people have many options that they have to communicate with employers with regard to multitasking and work-life balance since they have a profound effect on career progression, promotion, and pension allocation.

The main problem with work-life balance arises when the job description is such that many deadlines have to be met and one has to choose between meeting them and meeting with the family and spending quality time at home.  In most cases, work-balance issues have to be entrenched in a cultural setting if they are to apply successfully in worsening economic situations like the ones in which we are living in today.

Although a culture that maintains work-life balance is very complex, it is equally crucial especially for someone with a family. This situation, if applied successfully results in a situation whereby someone engages in family-friendly working experience. In this case, one is able to earn an income for the family in worsening economic times without jeopardizing the long-time cohesion of the family.

In the traditional setting, the issue of a work-life balance was considered to be a “woman issue”. However, today, many things have changed. Female employment patterns have changed and men also have a role to play in spending time with children and offering them moral support when the mother is not around. It is a matter of the amount of money that either spouse is bringing on the table rather than the traditionally clear-cut gender domestic roles.

According to research done in the U.S, 37 % of all working women are taking care of domestic responsibilities while at the same time working in their respective professions. This compares favorably rather curiously with 17 % of women who have no such responsibilities as well as 6.5 % of men who can be placed in the same bracket (White, 2003). For many people, the matter of whether or not to balance between family and work is a personal decision. Today’s generation, according to Tausig &Fenwick (2001, p. 102), is considered to be a “sandwich generation”. This means that the people who constitute the foundation of the economy are sandwiched between the need to support themselves, their children and the passive aging population.

In times of economic hardships, people who are working part-time on their careers and have to take care of their families at the same time have difficulties progressing in their careers. The result of this is lower salary levels, reduced supplementary payments as well as dwindling social security long-term payments.

In times of economic hardships, it is difficult to maintain compatibility between work and family life. This scenario is very rampant in situations where managers are not willing to go with the changing times or where the job is very demanding in terms of deadlines. In such a situation, people who are aggressive in their careers find it difficult to maintain a win-win situation in their struggle for a balanced work-life career.

According to Mcdowell (2004 p, 152), many organizations are trying to embrace a dual-approach in their professional descriptions. This is in response to worsening economic situations whereby workers are not sure whether they are going to lose their jobs in the next day or not. In this case, top organizations set up agendas that are tailored to ensure that individuals succeed both at the family and professional front. However, sometimes, pressures for organizations to perform and achieve set targets in the face of worsening economic times may make professionals with a need to maintain a work-life balance feel disadvantaged.

For many organizations, establishing a policy that takes care of both career and family is a challenging one. The biggest problems are found in the private sector, where competition is more severed and stability is never a guarantee. In this case, professionals have to be vigilant with time management measures in the face of life’s challenges that in extreme cases may threaten one’s future career progression.

Smithson&Stokoe (2005, p. 156) observes that in both private and public and private organizations, there is always pressure for individuals to compete in order to succeed in both the family and career fronts. In this case, people who are working have to contend with the burden of solving domestic and professional problems, all in equal measure. Sometimes, professional assistance may be needed in order for situations of conflicting professional and domestic goals not to arise.

            In times of economic hardships, one of the most popular approaches is known as “buy-in”. In this situation, all new concepts have to be put into consideration. The concepts may be new in some organizations although they may not be new in other organizations. Additionally, all relevant players have to be brought on board for buy-in arrangements to work. Unfortunately, when the going gets tough economically, many private and to some extent public organizations put buy-in plans on hold and start laying off workers. In this case, one has to be careful not to be targeted for retrenchment on account of being inefficient.

            Sometimes, workers’ unions come in and try to struggle for the rights of workers. In developed economies, this may bear fruits. In developing economies, this may not bear any fruits. It all depends on the management models that have been adopted. Some management models are more vulnerable to economic instability than others. However, the whole task of maintaining work-life balance becomes most successful when entrenched in the professional culture of a wide range of companies and organizations both in the private sectors. This way, it becomes easy for ideas and professional practices to be shared for the sake of efficiency and sustainability.

            Organizations that are yet to establish themselves in matters of work-life balance are more likely to suffer difficulties than those that have set those structures in place whether the going is hard difficult economically or not. Sometimes, trade unions come in so as to fight for the rights of their members. However, there is nothing much that can be done when the chief source of the problem is the instability of the economy. Unless the economy stabilizes, any measures taken to address the grievances of professionals are efforts in futility.

            When there is an information deficit in matters of employee remuneration especially in the private sector, professionals feel unsure about the future of their careers, jobs as well as the sustenance of their families. For this reason, they need assurance in order to get the confidence to get going at both the workplace and at home. In times of economic difficulties, it becomes difficult for the breadwinner to assure his family that tomorrow will be bright when news of sister companies collapsing and workers being laid off are hitting the airwaves every other day.

            For the battle for maintenance of work-life balance to be maintained in an environment of economic stability, concerted efforts have to be put in place by the managers of organizations, leaders of trade unions, as well as individual employees. Sometimes, managers and leaders of trade unions may need special training in order to deal with the issue sensitively. It takes a lot of concerted efforts for employees to be assured that the organizations they work for have a bright future and that it is possible for work-balance to be maintained by all workers without the very existence of the organizations to be put in jeopardy.

            In worse economic times, strategies to safeguard the work-life balance needs of employees fail because of failure in channels of communication between workers, their supervisors, and senior management. in most cases, awareness of the economic difficulties among all these stakeholders is never the problem. The main problem arises when communicative strategies are being put in place. Anxiety may get in the way of dialogue processes that otherwise promise to be bringing about a fruitful resolution of employees’ demands.

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            Although it is good for managers of businesses to build a case for work-life balance, this does not always happen unless the efforts are guided by statutory government legislation. Even in this case, it takes time for a culture of confidence to be established among employees. By the time this happens, the majority of them may have transferred in pursuit of greener pastures where the security of employment is more guaranteed.  In most cases, this entails movement from private sectors into public sectors.

The profit margin of the company may not do much to convince employees to stay on if the general perception is that a company may be forced to lay off some workers in order to safeguard its future.  The l of confidence among employees depends on the professional status within the organization as well as the level of assurance that is given that no matter what happens in the economic atmosphere, a situation of joblessness will never arise.

Whenever the going gets tough economically, it is obvious that many employers, especially those in the private sector will try to avoid efforts by trade unions to push for work-life balance programs. This is a clear indication of the damaging effects that a failing economy can have on work-life balance. In most cases, many private-sector players would like to support such programs; but since this is a very expensive undertaking, it becomes an organizationally risky undertaking to venture into.

According to recent research, when the going is tough economically, the skilled staff becomes worried that they may have made the wrong career decisions especially if they perceive that their family needs are not being adequately met by the current job. When economic recession looms, it is very easy for such employees to start being reprimanded for absenteeism even before trade unions have formally launched efforts to have professionals guaranteed support in their work-life balance efforts.

In most cases, stability-conscious organizations tend to anticipate economically challenging times and to put corrective measures in place early enough. By the time employees start to feel the pinch of a worsening economy, they already have to contend with stricter work deadlines as the organizations try to limit the damaging effects of the economic turmoil. For this reason, employees are sure to encounter a double tragedy of having to take care of their families in a situation where work pressures are at their highest levels. This, according to Hill (2001 p. 56), leads to increased efforts at trade unionism that further disrupts the economy that desperately requires the support of these organizations in order to get on its feet once again.

When the economic situation is worsening, Gonäs & Karlsson (2006, p. 176) say that it becomes difficult for employers to put structures that bring about job satisfaction among the workforce. This does not sound like good news for people with families. For this reason, it is not easy to avoid a scenario where the employee turnover rate is high. This is a very huge loss for organizations that are technologically-oriented since the expertise of the workers is a valuable asset. The asset may be considered to be even more valuable if the training costs were to be factored in by human resource management experts.

Unfortunately, Felstead (2002, p. 55) comments that in bad economic times many paradigm shifts have to be made as part of the psychological adjustments of both individuals as well as corporate entities. In this process, individuals are forced to rethink their professional goals, public sector players are forced to rethink their positions in the highly competitive corporate scene and more importantly, public sector players are forced to redraw their strategies in order to play a more proactive role in driving the economy back on the path of progress. In this process, work-life balance becomes difficult to maintain. For this reason problems such as absenteeism, low morale, and reduced productivity become very rampant as individuals try to plan security issues relating to both their professions as well as their families.

References

Barbara, P. 2006, The Work/Life Collision, The Federation Press, Annandale.

Felstead, A. 2002, Opportunities to Work at Home in the Context of Work-Life Balance, Human Resource Management Journal, Vol.12, no 1, pp. 54-76.

Gonäs, L. & Karlsson,J. 2006, Gender Segregation: Divisions of Work in Post-Industrial Welfare States, Ashgate Publishing Ltd. Hampshire.

Hill, E.  2001, Finding an Extra Day a Week: The Positive Influence of Perceived Job Flexibility on Work and Family Life Balance, Family Relations, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 49-58.

Mcdowell, L, 2004 ‘Workfare, Work/Life Balance and an Ethic of Care’Progress in Human Geography, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp.145-63.

Smithson, J. & Stokoe, E, 2005, Discourses of Work-Life Balance: Negotiating ‘Genderblind’ Terms in Organizations, Gender, Work & Organization, Vol. 12, no.2, pp. 147 – 168.200

Tausig, M.&Fenwick, R. 2001. ‘Unbinding Time: Alternate Work Schedules and Work-Life Balance’, Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Vol. 22, no. 2, pp.101-19.

White, M,2003,‘’ High-performance’ Management Practices, Working Hours and Work-Life Balance’ British Journal of Industrial Relations.Vol. 41 no. 2 pp. 175-195.

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