BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Global health and work-life balance



The term work-life balance refers to the balance needed by individuals to maintain stability and equilibrium between work and other aspects of life. Work-life balance does not mean an equal balance because it’s impossible and impractical to spend the same number of hours for work and social or personal activities. However, it means attaining a daily fulfillment in each quadrant of life: Work, Family, Friends and Self. Balance is important to maintain efficiency, effectiveness and a positive mental health; consequently, there is need to manage the times allocated for work and other aspects of life. Important aspects of life besides work include personal matters, family affairs, social events and leisure activities.

The difficulty in striking a balance between work and life is a challenge faced by a good number of people. In Canada, 58% of workers report being overloaded by their multiple roles- work, school, family, friends, physical health, volunteer and community service. In 2010, the National Health Interview Survey Occupational Health Supplement data showed that 16% of American workers had difficulty balancing work and family. These findings were more prevalent among workers in certain age groups, races, educational levels, careers and marital status. For instance, middle aged workers (30–44 years) had the highest number of individuals reporting imbalance in work and life. Additionally, non-Hispanic black workers at 19% reflected the highest rate of people who reported imbalance in work and life, compared to 16% of non-Hispanic white workers and 15% of Hispanic workers. Workers who possess a bachelor’s or advanced degree also faced greater challenges attaining a work-life balance compared to workers who possess lower educational qualifications. Based on marital status, divorced and separated workers faced higher challenges attaining work-life balance compared to married workers widowed workers, and never married workers. Workers in certain careers and industries such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting reported lower prevalence of work-life imbalance compared to workers in other areas. More so, professional and highly skilled workers such as legal and medical professionals reported a higher rate of work-life imbalance. On the other hand, a lower rate was observed for workers in office and administrative support fields.

The major determinants of work-life imbalance include gender, hours of work, career ambition and family composition. Differences resulting from gender are based on the fact that in most cases, men prioritize work in order to gain the financial competence to provide for their families as well as maintain their social status, whereas women in most cases prioritize their families rather than work. Long hours at work leads to an imbalance because work takes the time needed to be spent doing other important things such as attending to family needs and resting. Family composition, structure and responsibilities also influence work-life balance because families with demanding needs require members to spend less time at work in order to maintain work-life balance while families with less demanding needs allow members the flexibility to spend more time at work and still achieve some balance. For instance, parents of growing children may need to spend less time at work as they have to cater for their kids. Symptoms of work-life imbalance are loss of control, guilt about neglecting other duties, difficulty concentrating and fatigue.

Irrespective of the many challenges of achieving work-life balance, it is essential to our mental health. Therefore, it remains our individual responsibility to take control and understand our lives enough in order to maintain a healthy balance in every aspect. According to Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), tips for maintaining balance include taking breaks, setting priorities and goals, exercising, budgeting, delegating and saying no to some activities.

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