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work Life Balance – January 1st, 2005

Work Life Balance  is a term that every working man and woman often speaks about and aims to achieve. It is perceived as the ultimate goal that brings about positive impact and value and balance to everyday life.

With the growing emphasis on a balanced life, organizations of today have started opening their doors to new Human Resource management strategies such as educational plans, flexible work schedules, global opportunities, activities, clubs, childcare options and more – to help its employees learn, play and work the way you want. Work/Life balance is now an essential part of the most national and multi-national organization. They provide principles, policies and programs to support employees.

However from an individuals perspective, there’s lots of talk about how critical it is to strike a balance but no one is clear of how to get it done. Thus the quest goes on to reach a situation where there is a perfect marriage between ones work life and personal life and despite the worldwide quest for Work-Life Balance, very few have found an acceptable definition of the concept from an individuals perspective.

Let’s start with defining what work-life balance is not.

Work-Life Balance does not mean an equal balance. Trying to schedule an equal number of hours for each of your various work and personal activities is usually unrewarding and unrealistic. Life is and should be more fluid than that.

Your best individual work-life balance will vary over time; often on a daily basis. The right balance for you today will probably be different for you tomorrow. The right balances for you when you are single will be different when you marry, or if you have children; when you start a new career versus when you are nearing retirement.

There is no perfect, one-size fits all, balance you should be striving for. The best work-life balance is different for each of us because we all have different priorities and different lives.

However, at the core of an effective work-life balance definition are two key everyday concepts that are relevant to each of us. They are daily Achievement and Enjoyment, ideas almost deceptive in their simplicity.

Engraining a fuller meaning to these two concepts takes us most of the way to defining a positive Work-Life Balance. Achievement and Enjoyment answer the big question “Why?” Why do you want a better income a new house the kids through college to do a good job today to come to work at all?

Most of us already have a good grasp on the meaning of Achievement. But let’s explore the concept of Enjoyment a little more. As part of a relevant Work-Life Balance definition, enjoyment does not just mean “Ha-Ha” happiness. It means Pride, Satisfaction, Happiness, Celebration, Love, a Sense of Well Being  all the Joys of Living.

Achievement and Enjoyment are the front and back of the coin of value in life. You can’t have one without the other, no more than you can have a coin with only one side. Trying to live a one sided life is why so many “Successful” people are not happy, or not nearly as happy as they should be.

Meaningful daily Achievement and Enjoyment in each of the four life quadrants: Work, Family, Friends and Self. Analyzing regularly on your achievements at work that have brought about enjoyment, and similarly with your family, your friends and also just with yourself will help you understand and appreciate every day of your life. It also helps you to plan and schedule your actions in preparation for the future.

At work you can create your own best Work-Life Balance by making sure you not only Achieve, but also reflect the joy of the job, and the joy of life, every day. If nobody pats you on the back today, pat yourself on the back. And help others to do the same. When you are a person that not only gets things done, but also enjoys the doing, it attracts people to you. They want you on their team and they want to be on your team.

Work Life Balance for an individual is complex in itself. The similar concept when analyzed for working women becomes more complex and can be debated steamily with contrasting perspectives. Across Asia, as in the rest of the world, women are finding themselves increasingly involved in employment, especially since a dual income makes it easier for a family to meet the rising costs of living. An implication of this trend is that the model of the man of the household as breadwinner has seen tremendous change. With this change that is happening as part of the evolution of the working community, working women are striving to affirm their identity in the family beyond their role as caretakers of children and family life.

Some thinkers have concluded that womens social position and their natural association with motherhood stems from the distinct split between the private and public spheres. While the private sphere consisting of home, children and domestic life is thought to be the domain of women, men are said to dominate the public sphere characterised by the workplace, politics, institutions and organizations.

Especially women with children face a unique and emotionally strong situation, where they are forced with a need to accommodate and other hand have an inner urge to resist to assuming responsibility for the role entirely, especially when local traditions continue to position that home and family related responsibilities should be the primary concern of the women of the household. Thus, there is a struggle in assuming or sharing the role of the care giver in the household.

When such a situation presents itself  where two working people form a family, there arises the need for the couple to share the responsibilities of the family between them. This calls for mutual agreement between the two of them. The man and the woman in the relationship need to sit down and lay down their thoughts and perspectives on the table. A dialogue on the roles and responsibilities and the optimal level of sharing should be agreed upon and the couple should meticulously strive to live upto the agreed borders in sharing responsibility. Any disruption could easily cause a heated argument, a debate and even a prolonged duel between the couple as the matter is highly sensational and triggers emotions at the very beginning of a dialogue.

Grand parents of the couple should try to contribute their assistance where possible and offer to be of help if it is within their limits. Excluding grand parents who are ill and need assistance to be looked after, it is perfectly reasonable for grand parents to spend quality time with the children, on behalf of the parent. Researches and reports have clearly identified that assistance offered by grand parents mutually and without and persuasion or coercion have resulted in harmonious relationships between the children, the parents and the grand parents.

All this said and done, Work Life Balance is still an everyday dream which requires co-ordination, meticulous planning and motivation to make the dream come true and is an essential responsibility on ourselves to ensure we are able to live our life peacefully and happily. The fruits of the effort put towards work Life Balance is insurmountable and hence should not be compromised.

These are simple concepts and once you focus on them as key components of your day, they are not that hard to implement. So, make it happen, for yourself, your family and all the important individuals you care about every day for the rest of your life  Achieve and Enjoy!

Sivakami Kannappan – a working mother

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