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Blog>Trends>Our Study on the Elusive Work-Life Balance

Our Study on the Elusive Work-Life Balance

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Winding down after a long day can be extremely trying, especially if you frequently bring work home. In fact, a desired “work-life balance” defined as the split between someone’s professional and personal time, has become harder to achieve in recent years due to the workplace offering flexibility, remote careers, and work-from-home opportunities.

So to see how employees feel regarding their efforts to find a work-life balance, we surveyed 1,061 full-time workers to see how their careers impact their downtime, health, productivity, and time spent with loved ones. Read on to discover the factors that help some employees feel fulfilled, while leading others to burnout.

Work-Life Balance: Practical Future or Lofty Goal?

The majority (over 70%) of American workers we surveyed believed finding a work-life balance was possible. However, even with technology designed to maximize effort, the optimism felt by our survey respondents may be misplaced.

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35% of respondents said they had yet to discover what it means to balance their work and personal lives, with parenthood and gender possibly compounding this issue. Around 3 in 4 fathers believed a work-life balance was possible, but nearly 40% said they hadn’t quite realized that goal yet.

Additionally, younger employees were less likely to believe in a work-life balance. Less than 68% of millennial workers were optimistic about a more balanced future. It’s tough on this demographic, who have been dubbed “the burnout generation” and often show signs of being overworked. On the other hand, baby boomers were the most likely to believe a work-life balance was realistic (77%) and have found that stability (72% compared to less than 62% for millennials).

What Would You Give Up for a Better Work-Life Balance?

When someone finds that coveted work-life balance, they aren’t likely to give it up. Only 11% of workers surveyed would consider focusing more on their careers for better pay. And for people with a good work-life balance, they would need at least $10,000 more per year to abandon elements of that lifestyle. Over 30% of workers would even be willing to give up some of their income for a better work-life balance.

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It also appears that the higher up the corporate ladder one climbs, the more money they would be willing to sacrifice to have a better balance. Managers would take a 4.7% salary cut if it meant they could experience better stability between their job and personal life. This hypothetical pay decrease is still more than the average wage increase (3%) and just shy of the typical bonus size (5.9%) of the average American worker.

People with children were willing to take a proportionately higher pay cut than managers if it meant more opportunities for work-life balance. Parents were prepared to reduce their salaries by around 5% if it meant more time with their family, almost double that of people with no children. The expectation that employees – especially parents – should be constantly available to work is unrealistic and can harm both workers and their families.

Controlling Our Work Environment for Optimal Work-Life Balance

People who had flexible work hours were more likely to report a good work-life balance. Specifically, being able to set your own schedule, at least to a degree, can produce more well-rounded workers who have a better relationship between work and play.

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Regardless of their current work-life balance, the amount of time spent at work among respondents was relatively constant. This means that some of the differences in balance perception may stem from differing workplace conditions.

For instance, 82.5% of workers who felt their job was completely or mostly fulfilling reported having the right work-life balance. Among those who found their job completely or mostly unfulfilling, though, only 33.1% felt they had found the right balance between their personal and professional lives. There was a similar trend when we looked at how cooperative respondents felt their colleagues were.

One key characteristic of a proper work-life balance is taking time for vacations – and not feeling guilty about it. Work breaks offer an opportunity to refresh, reset, and recover, leading to more productive, motivated, and creative workers. However, many employees let their vacation days lapse.

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Unfortunately, working parents have a disadvantage when it comes to downtime. Working fathers had 25% less downtime than non-parents enjoyed, while working mothers had half the downtime. Raising children is a full-time job, so it’s no surprise that parents with careers are short on time. One Pew Research Center study found that 29% of working dads and 37% of working moms said they always feel rushed.

More Freedom With Strong Work-Life Balance

Employees with a solid work-life balance have more flexibility to enjoy themselves and be social. Respondents who were satisfied with their time split were three times more likely to make plans right after work and over two times more likely to ignore their work email outside of office hours. Invites to social gatherings and happy hour mixers with co-workers can become more appealing when you don’t feel the urge to drive straight home and work after hours.

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Employees who managed their professional time effectively were 2.5 times more likely to set time aside for meditation or prayer, 1.8 times more likely to set goals, and 1.7 times more likely to document their priorities.

However, employed fathers were over two times more likely to linger at the office to keep tasks confined to work, while employed mothers were 1.7 times more likely to take advantage of meal planning.

Overall, finding a work-life balance can be aided by wellness habits, disconnecting from work-related communications, and spending free time with family. For the best success, consider muting your notifications and keeping organized with a calendar so you can carve out the required time for work and set aside valued time with loved ones.

Finding That Perfect Balance

The various issues that workers face today are systemic. Many employees are expected to sacrifice a healthy work-life balance to meet the needs of their company, causing them to feel less fulfilled in their roles and less effective in groups.

Thus, the responsibility of finding that proper split lies with each of us. If you find that your current job is not worth losing valuable time with your loved ones, consider the countless other options out there. At Joblist, we have turned the job hunt into a streamlined and personalized experience. By aggregating only the most high-quality listings, we are confident in our ability to find the company that appeals to you as a candidate.

Methodology

For this study, we surveyed 1,061 full-time salaried or hourly workers from the United States. 22.2% were baby boomers, 37.7% were Gen Xers, and 40.1% were millennials.

21.6% of respondents were working fathers of children under 18. 24.3% were working mothers of children under 18. The remainder of respondents did not have children. 47.5% of respondents were men, 52.3% were women, and 0.2% were nonbinary.

To determine the percentage of income respondents were willing to give up to improve their work-life balance, we divided the amount they were willing to give up by their personal annual income.

Downtime was defined as any time spent relaxing outside of work hours.

Some similar responses were grouped to simplify visualizations or maintain a quality sample size.

Limitations

Survey data are based on self-reported information from our respondents. This means they may be influenced by minimization or exaggeration. The data are based on means and are not statistically tested.

Fair Use Statement

Feel free to share this article on finding a work-life balance, but please cite us by name and only use this information for noncommercial purposes.

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