By Nor Izmawati Mostapar, Vice President of e-Learning & Corporate Communications at MII
The concept of “work-life balance” can be traced back in the 18th century. The term became popular in the 1980s when more women entered the workforce. Although the concept of work-life balance initially focused on women, it quickly became more inclusive and accounted for the needs of both sexes. Today, the concept of work-life balance has evolved. In general terms, it is about achieving balance in mixing business and personal life that best “suits” one’s needs. This suitability factor leads to the various definitions of work-life balance, which eventually carries different meanings to different individuals.
From a business perspective, work-life balance is an important aspect of promoting and maintaining a healthy work environment. Exercising work-life balance helps reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace. Chronic stress and burnout can lead to many physical consequences such as hypertension, digestive problems, chronic aches and pains and heart problems; as well as negatively impact mental health as it is linked to a higher risk of depression, anxiety and insomnia.
Bin the long run, employers can save money and maintain a healthier, more productive workforce by creating a work environment that prioritizes work-life balance. Over the years, the methods and approaches of work-life balance has been constantly evolving. To help employers understand and cater to the various needs of their workers, employers should identify the difference in opinions among the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials.
Work-Life Balance for Baby Boomers
Born around the time of World War II (between 1945 and 1960), this generation was exposed to many hardships at a very young age. Making a decent living was hard work for this generation, and in turn, they craved stability in the workplace and valued the opportunity for employment. Because of this, work-life balance was not part of their expectations. The level of commitment and dedication is a show of loyalty and appreciation, which makes Baby Boomers serve companies for longer periods. Many Baby Boomers are currently in senior or director level positions that require a high degree of responsibility, which results in moderate to high levels of stress.
Work-Life Balance for Gen X
As the children of the Baby Boomers, Gen Xers (born between 1961 and 1980) grew up witnessing the long hours and poor work-life balance of their parents. Awhile growing up, many Gen Xers were exposed to the effects of strained parent-child relationships and as a result, this generation puts more effort in creating work-life balance in their own lives. These employees prioritize spending time with their family and because of this, Gen Xers tend to think of work-life balance as a necessary option in their employment. They look for perks such as transportation, extended maternity/paternity leave and adequate vacation time.