After Nearly a Half Century, Work-Life Is More Relevant Than Ever

Work-Life Is More Relevant Than Ever

The evolution of the work-life industry has been nothing short of incredible.

At its dawn, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the work-life movement was basically a response to two workplace trends: 1) the rapidly growing ranks of working mothers who needed caregiving assistance, and 2) the number of employees who needed help coping with personal issues that affected their job performance. In other words, the entire work-life universe at that time consisted of dependent care and EAP programs.

Today, however, work-life encompasses nearly every facet of our lives: work arrangements and schedules … job design and structure … opportunities for professional growth and development … personal health and wellness … caring for families and loved ones … even our workplace cultures.

Although it’s been around for nearly half a century, the work-life movement is more relevant than ever.

Blurring Work-Life Boundaries
One reason for work-life’s enduring significance is the line between our work and private lives is increasingly blurry. People today have access to tools and technologies—both at work and at home—that allow them to remain connected to their work. Indeed, more and more individuals use their personal devices for work-related tasks, and some employers actually expect their people to be accessible 24/7.

All this persistent connectivity and accessibility has created widespread work-life imbalance and health problems among workers across the world. This was underscored recently by research from the University of Zurich, which found that blurring boundaries between work and personal life can erode workers’ sense of well-being and lead to burnout and exhaustion.

A recent survey of more than 2,800 professionals by LinkedIn found that half of them report feeling stressed in their jobs, and 70% say the biggest driver of their stress is a lack of work-life balance.

Work-Life Quest Spans Generations

Work-Life Quest Spans Generations
The search for better work-life balance is cross-generational. It might have begun with the Baby Boomers but it has spread to Generation X and Millennials as well. As benefits advisory firm JP Griffin Group points out, all three groups in today’s workforce “crave a healthy balance between their working lives and time spent outside the office,” but they also recognize that work-life balance is about more than controlling their work schedules. Salary, benefits, retirement planning, child care, elder care, and doing work that matters are all part of their evolving definitions of work-life integration and balance.

Over the years, employers have grown increasingly committed to addressing all of these needs, and work-life offerings have progressed far beyond that initial roster of dependent care and EAP programs (although these still form the core of today’s integrated work-life programs).

Naturally, work-life benefits wouldn’t still be around if they hadn’t proven their worth long ago. Among the more recent studies bearing out this merit of work-life programs is the Federal Work-Life Survey, conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (an independent agency of the U.S federal government that manages its civilian workforce). The survey revealed that people who participate in work-life balance programs:

  • Are more likely to exceed performance expectations
  • Better advance the mission of their agency
  • Enhance their ability to manage stress
  • And are better able to improve their health

In addition, the survey found that work-life programs have a positive impact on recruitment, retention and job performance at federal agencies. Based on these findings, federal agencies plan to continue enhancing the work-life support they provide to employees.

The Evolution Will Continue
The quest for better work-life integration and balance will evolve in the years ahead, especially as the workforce continues to change (it will comprise five generations by 2020 or so) and revise its definitions of what constitutes work-life balance.

For instance, the research from JP Griffin Group mentioned above shows that younger generations of workers are much more interested in preventing burnout. As a result, they’re already putting pressure on employers to change traditional ways of working. They want more flexibility and the opportunity to design their own jobs and careers.

Whatever shape the future of work takes, one thing is sure: work-life integration will remain as relevant—and as much in demand—as it has been over the past 50 years.

If you’d like to discuss how a world-class work-life program could serve your organization and its people, contact us here or call us at 1-(866) 675-3751.