By: Jaime B. Henning, Ph.D., EKU Department of Psychology professor and Yoshie Nakai, Ph.D., EKU Department of Psychology associate professor
For most of us in the U.S., a large part of who we are is defined by what we do. On average we spend over a third of our day working – often bringing work home in the evenings or on weekends.
Juggling the demands of, and satisfaction from, our work and personal lives is not necessarily a new thing. So why does the conversation about work-life balance continue to be so important?
First, the borders between our work and personal lives are becoming more blurred. Advances in technology have resulted in more opportunities to engage in work anytime, anywhere. Often turning 8-5 work days into 24/7 work weeks.
When work/life lines begin colliding it often results in the experience of work-life conflict. Work-life conflict is associated with many negative work and personal outcomes, including lower job and life satisfaction, lower career commitment, stronger turnover intentions, and greater physical symptoms and depression, all of which could affect organizational productivity. While most of us have experienced this conflict at some point in our lives, it is important to restore balance before the negative affects take hold.
Additionally, the composition of our workforce continues to change. The current labor force includes more females, more dual-career couples, more single-parent employees, more workers involved in caring for significant others, and more individuals working beyond the traditional retirement age.
This increasing diversity in the forms of and reasons for work requires reexamination of how work and personal lives overlap for our current and future workforce. For many organizations, the ability to continue recruiting top talent to fill their ranks may well depend on their willingness to perform these evaluations and refine policies and practices.
Industrial-organizational psychologists are critical to this process as they work to gain a better understanding of work-life balance, through the application of theories and principles of psychology. The results of their research and efforts can help to improve organization effectiveness and employee well-being, allowing both employees and employers to thrive.