While the focus on work-life balance has been directed to organizations and management, employees play a major role when the balance isn’t achieved, according to research by ORC International.
Particularly in today’s economy, employees should focus on less transformative change and make minor daily shifts in work style.
"We've spent nearly the last two decades calling out the companies and management for the need for work-life flexibility,” says Cali Williams Yost, an expert on workplace issues and researcher of the study. “Many have responded, but now employees also need to step up and assert control by making small, subtle, practical choices that no one will notice but them. For over 20 years, our center has stressed the importance of organizational culture, the right types of management support, and the most effective human resource policies and programs needed to facilitate work life fit.
"But I have always stressed my belief that ultimately it is the individual who must solve this problem, must determine their fit and must manage the process of achieving it."
Seventy-five percent of employees say balancing work and life is only possible when provided by the employer, the research finds. Employees also say they do not feel empowered, and the increased workloads and lack of time are causing stress, which are the most cited obstacles to work-life flexibility.
"For over 20 years, our Center has stressed the importance of organizational culture, the right types of management support, and the most effective human resource policies and programs needed to facilitate work-life fit,” say Brad Harrington, Ph.D., executive director of the Boston College Center for Work and Family. “But I have always stressed my belief that ultimately it is the individual who must solve this problem, must determine their fit and must manage the process of achieving it."
Employers are offering more flexibility programs and policies; however, many employees find it is unrealistic to work from home or follow a compressed schedule, Yost and Harrington agree. Still, this does not mean finding a work-life balance is out of reach.
"Major life events matter, but it's the everyday routine we crave and where employees struggle the most with managing work life fit,” Yost says. “We can't wait for HR or the boss to solve this conflict for us. Employees themselves need to manage work life fit as a daily practice. And while it may be counterintuitive, it starts by thinking small – by, yes, sweating the 'small stuff.'"