Work-to-Life Balance: This Work Thing is Getting in the Way of my Personal Life!

By Kristin Cavallaro, Knowledge and Data Analysis Specialist

It’s 10 PM: do you know where your laptop is? I can tell you where mine is right now. I’m sitting on my couch with the TV on in the background typing up this article. I am not necessarily typing it because I need to, but rather because I want to get it done so that I can work on other things at the office tomorrow.

Millions of people go beyond the call of normal work hours every day across the world. Some of this extra clock-punching may be mandatory depending on your job role and responsibilities. Sometimes it’s just a good distraction from housework or to wrap up loose ideas before going to bed. In my case, it’s just a nice way to catch up on work that I didn’t get around to during the day. Whatever the driver, working professionals do it all the time.

SSI recently conducted a poll among business-to-business (B2B) respondents who work full time in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. We asked them how they perceived their work-to-life balance. It was quite surprising to see the similarities between the three countries when it came to the average number of hours one typically works during the week. It was even more surprising to see the frequency in which people checked in after work.

Not surprisingly, the US has the highest rate of people checking in after hours:

  • 39% of US respondents reported checking their email at least once an hour after work hours on average
  • 36% actually do work after hours at least three days per week. This is much higher than our European counterparts.

The working population in the United States is often seen as a group of “workaholics.” That mentality drives us to shift the balance between work and life.

When asked to rate work-to-life balance, those in the US have a much more positive opinion about their “work-life balance” in terms of what that means to them. However, we did find that those who are kept away from their families more or work longer hours that do not allow them to go home to their children did report a lower work life balance in these three countries overall.

The use of mobile devices may be a contributor to this sense of satisfaction. Forty-six percent of US respondents agree that their work/life balance has improved significantly since they began using a smartphone for work versus twenty-eight percent in the UK and thirteen percent in Germany.

When asked why mobile has improved their work/life balance, one respondent told us “(they) can handle both work and personal tasks from the same place.”  Another answered “(I) don’t worry so much about things since I can stay abreast of what is going on.” The overall theme is that workers can connect and check in while still being on the go and spending time with their families.

So what does this mean for companies? Numerous studies have shown that those who are more satisfied with their work-life balance in general tend to have a higher productivity and a lower burnout rate. Specifically a paper written for the Human Resource Management Journal,* “Working to live or living to work” touches on the effects of poor work/life balance.

From the mouths of our respondents, we find that they are happier with their work-life balance when they can work from home or when they have flexible hours which allows them to set their own schedule within limits. Respondents with these abilities within their professional life tend to be more satisfied with their work-life balance.

*Sturges, J. and Guest, D. (2004) ‘Working to live or living to work? Work/life balance early in the career’. Human Resource Management Journal, 14(4): pp.5-20.
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