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Build Your Career Work-Life Balance

Want Work-Life Balance? Define It For Yourself

Want Work-Life Balance? Define It For Yourself
Credit: bleakstar/Shutterstock

Although public perception may be that most workers are scrambling to juggle their professional and personal lives, new research shows that most U.S. office workers have a positive work-life balance.

According to the study, from Robert Half Management Resources, more than three-quarters of workers describe their work-life balance as very good and exactly where they want it to be, or good and close to where they want it to be. Work-life balance was even better for company executives. The study revealed that 82 percent of company leaders rated their work-life balance as good or very good. Just 2 percent of workers and 3 percent of executives said their work-life balance is poor and that they don't have any balance at all.

Many workers said they have seen their work-life balance improve in the past few years. Specifically, 45 percent said it has gotten better in the past three years, and only 14 percent said it has gotten worse. [10 Apps for Achieving Work-Life Balance ]

What's the reason behind this shift in perception? Workers aren't all operating under the same definition of "balance." 

"Work-life balance can have different meanings for different people — for some, leaving at 5 o'clock every night is the ideal, and for others, scheduling flexibility and remote work options offer the greatest benefit," Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half, said in a statement. "Employers today are introducing more flexibility in how, when and where work is performed, and employees are reaping the rewards."

While most workers are happy with their current balance, some are still struggling to achieve it. McDonald offered several tips for these employees and their managers:

  • Define work-life balance on an individual basis. For managers, this means understanding that work-life balance means something different to each of their workers. McDonald said to avoid holding every employee to the same expectation. And it's important for workers to determine what work-life balance means for them. To achieve a healthy work-life balance, they need to know what they are striving for.
  • Communicate. Managers need to let their employees know they support their efforts to find a positive balance. This is done by both talking to employees and creating an environment where workers feel comfortable discussing their needs. It is important for workers to explain their goals to their manager so they know what workers are trying to achieve.
  • Create benchmarks. Managers need to work with their employees to identify work-life balance parameters that are both realistic for their position and measurable. Workers should figure out ways to measure their progress to determine if their work-life balance is improving.
  • Make changes when necessary. Managers should regularly discuss work-life balance and address situations that aren't working out for them or their employees. Employees need to talk with their manager when their current plan for improving their work-life balance isn't working so that changes can be made.
  • Lead by example. Managers need to show their employees that work-life balance is important to them as well. This might mean leaving the office at a decent hour each day or not messaging their direct reports after hours. Employees can also lead by example by sharing any work-life-balance tips they have with their co-workers.
  • Unplug. Both managers and workers need to realize that it's OK to not be connected to the office at all times. When on vacation, managers shouldn't feel compelled to constantly be checking in. McDonald said that, at the same time, workers shouldn't feel obligated to check their email after-hours just so they can feel like they are better tied to the office.

The study was based on surveys of 2,200 chief financial officers from companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas and 1,000 U.S. workers employed in office environments.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.