Work-life balance
Work–life balance is a broad concept including proper prioritizing between "work" (career
Career is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a person's "course or progress through life ". It is usually considered to pertain to remunerative work ....

 and ambition
Ambition is the desire for personal achievement. It provides the motivation and determination necessary to achieve a particular end or condition. Ambitious people are characterised by their strong desire for attainment, power, or superiority...

) on the one hand and "life" (Health
Health is the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living being. In humans, it is the general condition of a person's mind, body and spirit, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain...

, pleasure
Pleasure describes the broad class of mental states that humans and other animals experience as positive, enjoyable, or worth seeking. It includes more specific mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria...

, leisure
Leisure, or free time, is time spent away from business, work, and domestic chores. It is also the periods of time before or after necessary activities such as eating, sleeping and, where it is compulsory, education....

, family
In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children...

 and spiritual development
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

) on the other. Related, though broader, terms include "lifestyle balance" and "life balance".


The work-leisure dichotomy
Work-leisure dichotomy
The work–leisure dichotomy is the conceptual separation of activities in a society. Some societies assume, for the large part of the population which is in a condition of employee, a separation between "work" and "leisure". This idea was invented with the industrial revolution...

 was invented in the mid 1800s. In anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

, a definition of happiness
Happiness is a mental state of well-being characterized by positive emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources....

 is to have as little separation as possible "between your work and your play." The expression "Work–life balance" was first used in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 in the late 1970s to describe the balance between an individual's work and personal life. In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, this phrase was first used in 1986.

Most recently, there has been a shift in the workplace as a result of advances in technology. As Bowswell and Olson-Buchanan stated, “increasingly sophisticated and affordable technologies have made it more feasible for employees to keep contact with work.” Employees have many methods, such as emails, computers and cell phones, which enable them to accomplish their work beyond the physical boundaries of their office. Employees may respond to an email or a voice mail after several hours or during the weekend, typically while not officially “on the job.” Researchers have found that employees that consider their work roles to be an important component of their identities, they will be more likely to apply these communication technologies to work while in their non-work domain.

Some theorists suggest that this blurred boundary of work and life is a result of technological control. Technological control “emerges from the physical technology of an organization”
. In other words, companies utilize email and distribute smart phones to enable and encourage their employees to stay connected to the business even when they are not in the real office. This type of control, as Barker would argued, replaces the more direct, authoritarian control, or simple control, such as managers and bosses. As a result, communication technologies in the temporal and structural aspects of work have changed, defining a “new workplace” in which employees are more connected to the jobs beyond the boundaries of the traditional workday and workplace . The more this boundary is blurred, the higher work-to-life conflict is self-reported by employees

Many Americans are experiencing burnout
Burnout (psychology)
Burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest. Research indicates general practitioners have the highest proportion of burnout cases; according to a recent Dutch study in Psychological Reports, no less than 40% of these experienced high levels of...

 due to overwork and increased stress. This condition is seen in nearly all occupations from blue collar workers to upper management. Over the past decade, a rise in workplace violence and an increase in levels of absenteeism
Absenteeism is a habitual pattern of absence from a duty or obligation. Traditionally, absenteeism has been viewed as an indicator of poor individual performance, as well as a breach of an implicit contract between employee and employer; it was seen as a management problem, and framed in economic...

 as well as rising workers’ compensation claims are all evidence of an unhealthy work life balance.

Employee assistance professionals say there are many causes for this situation ranging from personal ambition
Ambition is the desire for personal achievement. It provides the motivation and determination necessary to achieve a particular end or condition. Ambitious people are characterised by their strong desire for attainment, power, or superiority...

 and the pressure of family obligations to the accelerating pace of technology. According to a recent study for the Center for Work-Life Policy, 1.7 million people consider their jobs and their work hours excessive because of globalization.

These difficult and exhausting conditions are having adverse effects. According to the study, fifty percent of top corporate executives are leaving their current positions. Although sixty-four percent of workers feel that their work pressures are "self-inflicted", they state that it is taking a toll on them. The study shows that seventy percent of US respondents and eighty-one percent of global respondents say their jobs are affecting their health.

Between forty-six and fifty-nine percent of workers feel that stress is affecting their interpersonal and sexual relationships. Additionally, men feel that there is a certain stigma
Social stigma
Social stigma is the severe disapproval of or discontent with a person on the grounds of characteristics that distinguish them from other members of a society.Almost all stigma is based on a person differing from social or cultural norms...

 associated with saying "I can't do this".

United States history

The first enforceable hours' law in the United States was in 1874 when Massachusetts enacted a law which limited the amount of time that women and children could work each week.[1] This limit was set at sixty hours per week. Similar laws were later adopted by about half of the country’s states. Only men in exceptionally hazardous jobs were covered in early legislation and most had no limit to the number of hours their employers could have them work.

Ten-hour workdays were accepted in the agriculture industry during certain seasons and six-day workweeks were not unheard of. Bakers did not win the right to work less than ten hours per day until 1905 with the court case of Lochner vs. New York.

The general presumption during this period was that the courts would allow regulation of labor concerning women and children, who were thought to be incapable of bargaining on an equal footing with employers and in special need of protection. Men were allowed freedom of contract unless it could be proven that regulating their hours served a higher good for the population at large.[2]

During the turn of the twentieth century, the push for an eight-hour workday was geared primarily toward raising the hourly wage. The idea was that by maintaining the current weekly pay while lowering working hours, a fairer rate of pay would result. The slogan, “Whether you work by the piece or work by the day, decreasing the hours increases the pay,” seemed to carry the mood of the day. [3]

The early twentieth century laid the groundwork for the idea of work-life balance. Advancements in social sciences would move the focus towards the impact of long hours on the physical and mental health of the employee.

At this time, however, the new information was used to enhance productivity for the company. The shorter hours movement began to focus on the fact that an overworked employee is more prone to injury or mistake and becomes less productive. Josephine Goldmark wrote a book in 1912 detailing this fact and the Federal Public Works Act was passed the same year.

This new act required a forty-hour workweek for employees of government contracted firms. Over the next ten years, the government passed legislation requiring a forty-hour work week for individual industries nearly every time the issue arose in court.[4]

When the employees of the steel industry failed to obtain a reduction from their eighty-four-hour work week in 1919, the industry soon allowed their employees an eight-hour workday, a four hour per day reduction—a move brought about by much “arm-twisting” on the part of President Harding. [5]

By the 1920s, the average work week was fifty hours and was considered a great stride and well-earned award for America’s working man. (Whaples) The push for fewer hours had come to a close, but they had one more hurdle to overcome. The new concentration was on the ability to work half a day on Saturdays or have the day off completely. The ability to have two days of rest was unprecedented, but was considered vital to finalize an ethical work schedule. Pressure was put on businesses to make the change, especially in industries and cities with a large number of Jewish workers (since the Jewish Sabbath is on Saturday), and they finally achieved this goal by the end of the decade. Where only thirty-two firms had a five-day workweek in 1920, nearly half had adopted the practice by 1927. [6]

Their success was short lived. In the 1920s, the workers were coaxed into believing that they wanted to work longer hours and that they would be harmed by measures that limited how many hours they were allowed to work. Social scientists would later name this force the “gospel of consumption.” Beginning in the 1920s, advertisers persuaded Americans that happiness would not come from leisure time, but from purchasing commodities, and he concluded that this made it easier for managers to “allow” workers to make more money by working longer hours. [7]

Social scientists would conclude that a new work ethic began as Americans left the psychology of scarcity and adopted one of abundance. Some argue that this mentality of consumption or “consumerism” persists to this day. [8]

During the twentieth century, the average workweek has changed drastically. In 1900, the average workweek in manufacturing was approximately fifty-three hours. However, the workweek is responsive to business conditions. During the Great Depression, the average number of hours for production workers in manufacturing dropped to 34.6 each week. During World War II, hours worked rose to forty-five each week.

The normal range of hours worked during the four decades after World War II was thirty-nine to forty-one hours; (Whaples) however, starting in the 1990s, factory workweek hours began to exceed forty-one hours. As previously mentioned, Americans work approximately 47.1 hours each week; some employees work up to seventy hours. Therefore, it is safe to state that the average number of hours Americans presently work each week is the highest it has been in nearly seventy-five years.

In 1900, only nineteen percent of women of working age were in the labor force. In 1999 sixty percent of women worked outside the home. Even if the hours worked were slightly higher at the turn of the century, most households were supported by one paycheck. “In 1900, eighty percent of American children had a working father and a stay-at-home mother; however, by 1999, that figure was only twenty-four percent.” [9]

During the Great Depression, working hours were reduced. By 1932, approximately fifty percent of Americans were working a shortened work week. Instead of reducing wages, employers decided to lay off many workers and attempted to protect the employees that remained by encouraging them to job share.

President Hoover’s Commission for Work Sharing pushed voluntary hours reductions, and it is estimated that nearly three to five million jobs had been saved. (Whaples) Companies such as Sears, General Motors, and Standard Oil reduced the number of days worked each week, and Akron began a six-hour workday. The AFL began to call for a federally-mandated thirty-hour workweek. [10]

By 1933, some experts were predicting that the “thirty-hour workweek was within a month of becoming federal law.” [11] Congress began hearings on mandating the thirty-hour workweek, and the Senate even passed the bill (which was written by Hugo Black and sponsored in the House by William Connery) fifty-three to thirty.

Newly-elected President, Franklin Roosevelt initially supported the bill, but had second thoughts when he realized that the bill had a provision to forbid importation of goods produced by workers who worked longer than thirty hours a week. Instead, Roosevelt began to support the National Industrial Recovery Act. Labor leaders were encouraged to support the NIRA instead of the Black-Connery Thirty-Hour Bill with a guarantee of union organization and collective bargaining. With the threat of a mandated thirty-hour work week, businesses “fell into line.” [12] When specifics codes for the NIRA were drawn up, shorter hours were no longer a genuine concern.[13]

After the Great Depression ended, the average weekly hours worked began to rise. (According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 1934 the average hours worked each week was approximately thirty-four hours). During World War II, hours increased by approximately ten hours a week but, in the aftermath of the war, weekly work hours averaged forty hours. [14]

With automation of the workplace in “full swing” by the 1970s, large numbers of women began entering the work force and an “awareness of stress rose to the forefront” [15] In the publication Type A Behavior and Your Heart, cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray H. Rosenman wrote about the “hurry sickness” common to “workaholics”—people who had no friends and who “never relaxed or went to museums” [16]

In the late 1970s, Professor Robert Karasek of the University of Lowell (now known as University of Massachusetts Lowell) developed a method for analyzing stress-producing factors in the workplace. It has been widely employed to examine workplace pressures and their relationship with research data on coronary heart disease, musculoskeletal illnesses, psychological strain and absenteeism. Karasek explains, “In situations where an individual has high demands on him and low control, the undesirable stress of work and other situations becomes problematic.” [17]

The 1980s brought new complaints of work-life balance related stress. This time period was given such names as “the ME generation,” “the age of narcissism” and “the pursuit of loneliness.”[18] The number of cases of emotional depression in the United States was believed to have doubled between 1970 and 1990.

“What you do is what you are” was the common and unhealthy assumption. According to 'The Workaholic Syndrome', written by Judith K. Sprankle and Henry Ebel, “By their sheer numbers and the consequently narrowing opportunities at every upward run of the organizational ladder, the baby-boomers have been compelled to do more, to move faster, to compete harder. They, in turn, have set the pace for other age groups. The signs of increased stress are legion and have been intensified by an economic climate that mandates that if we marry at all, we marry a working spouse.” [19]

In the late 1980s, the “computer revolution” was not only responsible for corporate downsizing, but also increased the demand of employee output. Social critic Jeremy Rifkin states, “Back in the agriculture-based society, people were more attuned to generatively [20], and middle-stress disorders and diseases of affluence were not part of life. They weren’t triggered until the Industrial Age, and now the Information Age has worsened them. Nowadays, instead of seconds, it’s nanoseconds. We have moved from designing a schedule that real people can execute in whatever time it takes them, to a program which people can monitor but can’t affect.” [21]

In the 1980s, the number of workers’ compensation claims for “gradual mental stress” began to rise. Claims rose from 1,844 cases in 1981 to 15,688 in 1999 in the state of California alone. Because of the large number of cases as well as evidence of numerous cases of fraud, efforts were made in the early 1990s to reform the workers compensation program. Led by Republican Governor of California Pete Wilson and Democratic Party State assembly Speaker Willie Brown, the new law stated that claimants had to prove that stress was at least 51 percent of the reason for their illness. [22]

Unfortunately, because of these reforms some feel that it is now extremely difficult to be approved for workers compensation. John Burton, dean of the school of management and labor relations at Rutgers University feels that part of the reason for the decline is that “a number of states made it difficult to get stress into the system.

So even if the stress is out there, it’s not showing up (in the compensation statistics). Some of it shows up in the rising violence, which is a crude proxy for the stress out there.” [23]

Work statistics

According to a survey conducted by the National Life Insurance Company, four out of ten employees state that their jobs are "very" or "extremely" stressful. Those in high-stress jobs are three times more likely than others to suffer from stress-related medical conditions and are twice as likely to quit. The study states that women, in particular, report stress related to the conflict between work and family.

Stress and work-life balance

The number of stress-related disability claims by American employees has doubled according to the Employee Assistance Professionals Association in Arlington, Virginia. Seventy-five to ninety percent of physician visits are related to stress and, according to the American Institute of Stress, the cost to industry has been estimated at $200 billion-$300 billion a year.

Steven L. Sauter, chief of the Applied Psychology and Ergonomics Branch of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is the United States’ federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the U.S...

 in Cincinnati, Ohio, states that recent studies show that "the workplace has become the single greatest source of stress". Michael Feuerstein, professor of clinical psychology at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences at Bethesda Naval Hospital states, "We're seeing a greater increase in work-related neuroskeletal disorders from a combination of stress and ergonomic stressors".

It is clear that problems caused by stress have become a major concern to both employers and employees. Symptoms of stress are manifested both physiologically and psychologically. Persistent stress can result in cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease
Heart disease or cardiovascular disease are the class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels . While the term technically refers to any disease that affects the cardiovascular system , it is usually used to refer to those related to atherosclerosis...

, sexual health problems, a weaker immune system
Immune system
An immune system is a system of biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease by identifying and killing pathogens and tumor cells. It detects a wide variety of agents, from viruses to parasitic worms, and needs to distinguish them from the organism's own...

 and frequent headaches, stiff muscles, or backache. It can also result in poor coping skills, irritability, jumpiness, insecurity, exhaustion, and difficulty concentrating. Stress may also perpetuate or lead to binge eating
Binge eating
Binge eating is a pattern of disordered eating which consists of episodes of uncontrollable eating. It is sometimes as a symptom of binge eating disorder. During such binges, a person rapidly consumes an excessive amount of food...

, smoking
Smoking is a practice in which a substance, most commonly tobacco or cannabis, is burned and the smoke is tasted or inhaled. This is primarily practised as a route of administration for recreational drug use, as combustion releases the active substances in drugs such as nicotine and makes them...

, and alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....


According to James Campbell Quick, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Texas-Arlington, "The average tenure of presidents at land-grant universities in the past ten years has dropped from approximately seven to three-and-a-half years".

The feeling that simply working hard is not enough anymore is acknowledged by many other American workers. “To get ahead, a seventy-hour work week is the new standard. What little time is left is often divvied up among relationships, kids, and sleep.” This increase in work hours over the past two decades means that less time will be spent with family, friends, and community as well as pursuing activities that one enjoys and taking the time to grow personally and spiritually.

Texas Quick, an expert witness at trials of companies who were accused of overworking their employees, states that “when people get worked beyond their capacity, companies pay the price.” Although some employers believe that workers should reduce their own stress by simplifying their lives and making a better effort to care for their health, most experts feel that the chief responsibility for reducing stress should be management.

According to Esther M. Orioli, president of Essi Systems, a stress management consulting firm, “Traditional stress-management programs placed the responsibility of reducing stress on the individual rather than on the organization-where it belongs. No matter how healthy individual employees are when they start out, if they work in a dysfunctional system, they’ll burn out.”

Formation of the “ideal worker” and gender differences

Formation of the “ideal worker” and gender differences
Work-life conflict is not gender-specific. According to the Center for American Progress, 90 percent of working mothers and 95 percent of working fathers report work-family conflict . However, because of the social norms surrounding each gender role, and how the organization views its ideal worker, men and women handle the work-life balance differently.
Organizations play a large part in how their employees deal with work-life balance. Some companies have taken proactive measures in providing programs and initiatives to help their employees cope with work-life balance (see: Responsibility of the employer).

Yet, the root of the work-life conflict may come from the organizational norms and ideologies. As a macro structure, the organization maintains the locus of power. Organizations, through its structure, practices, symbols and discourse, create and reproduce a dominant ideology. The dominant ideology is what drives organizational power and creates organizational norms.

At the top of the organizational hierarchy, the majority of individuals are males, and assumptions can be made regarding their lack of personal experience with the direct and indirect effects of work-family conflict . For one, they may be unmarried and have no thought as to what “normal” family responsibilities entail. On the other hand, the high-level manager may be married, but his wife, due to the demands of the husband’s position, has remained at home, tending solely to the house and children. Ironically, these are the individuals creating and reforming workplace policies .

Workplace policies, especially regarding the balance between family/life and work, create an organizational norm in which employees must fall into. This type of organizational behavior, according to Dennis Mumby, “contribut[es] in some ways to the structuring of organizational reality, and hence organizational power.”

In other words, the reality of what employees experience, specifically in regards to work-life balance, is a direct result of power operating covertly through ideological controls. This is seen in the ideological norm of the “ideal worker.” Many organizations view the ideal worker as one who is “committed to their work above all else” . “Ideal workers” are those that demonstrate extra-role behaviors, which are seen as positive attributes.

Alternatively, those who are perceived as having to divide their time (and their commitments) are seen not as dedicated to the organization. As research has shown, a manager’s perception of a subordinate’s commitment to the organization is positively associated with the individual’s promotabilty. Hoobler et al.’s (2009) findings mirrored the perceived commitment-to-promotabilty likelihood .

Often time, these perceptions are placed on the female worker. Managers who perceived their female employees of maintaining high work-family conflict were presumed as not as committed to the organization, therefore not worthy of advancement. This negatively impacts working mothers as they may be “inaccurately perceived to have less commitment to their organizations than their counterparts, their advancement in organizations may be unfairly obstructed” .

Working mothers often have to challenge perceptions and stereotypes that evolve as a working woman becomes a working mother. Working mothers are perceived as less competent and less worthy of training than childless women . Another study, focusing on professional jobs, found that mothers were 79 percent less likely to be hired and are typically held to a higher standard of punctuality and performance than childless women . The moment when she becomes a mother, a working woman is held at a completely different norm than her childless colleagues. In the same Cuddy et al. (2004) study, men who became fathers were not perceived as any less competent, and in fact, their perceived warmth increased.

The ways in which corporations have modeled the “ideal worker” does not compliment the family lifestyle, nor does it accommodate it. Long hours and near complete devotion to the profession makes it difficult for working mothers to participate in getting ahead in the workplace . A Fortune article found that among the most powerful women in business (female CEOs, presidents and managing directors of major corporations), 29 percent were childless compared to 90 percent of men .

Should a woman seek a position of power within an organization, she must consider the toll on other facets of her life, including hobbies, personal relationships and families. As Jeffrey Pfeffer states: “Time spent on the quest for power and status is time you cannot spend on other things, such as … family…The price seems to be particularly severe for women” . Many executive jobs require a substantial amount of overtime, which as a mother, many cannot devote because of family obligations . Consequently, it is nearly impossible for a working mother in a top management position to be the primary caretaker of her child .

Perceptions of work-life balance and gender differences

This circumstance only increases the work-life balance stress experienced by many women employees.

Research conducted by the Kenexa Research Institute (KRI), a division of Kenexa, evaluated how male and female workers perceive work-life balance and found that women are more positive than men in how they perceive their company’s efforts to help them balance work and life responsibilities. The report is based on the analysis of data drawn from a representative sample of 10,000 U.S. workers who were surveyed through WorkTrends, KRI’s annual survey of worker opinions.

The results indicated a shift in women’s perceptions about work-life balance. In the past, women often found it more difficult to maintain balance due to the competing pressures at work and demands at home.

Work-life balance concerns of men and women alike

Similar discrimination is experienced by men who take time off or reduce working hours for taking care of the family.

For many employees today—both male and female—their lives are becoming more consumed with a host of family and other personal responsibilities and interests. Therefore, in an effort to retain employees, it is increasingly important for organizations to recognize this balance.

Young generation views on work-life balance

According to Kathleen Gerson, Sociologist, young people “are searching for new ways to define care that do not force them to choose between spending time with their children and earning an income" and “ are looking for definition of personal identity that do not pit their own development against creating committed ties to others". Young adults believe that parents should get involved and support the children both economically and emotionally, as well as share labor equally. Young people do not believe work-life balance is possible and think it is dangerous to build a life dependent on another when relationships are unpredictable. They are looking for partners to share the house work and family work together.
Both men and women believe that women should have jobs before considering marriage; for better life and to be happy in marriage. Young people do not think their mother’s generations were unhappy. They also do not think they were powerless because they were not economically dependent.

Identity through work

By working in an organization, employees identify, to some extent, with the organization, as part of a collective group . Organizational values, norms and interests become incorporated in the self-concept as employees increase their identify with the organization. However, employees also identify with their outside roles, or their “true self” . Examples of these might be parental/caretaker roles, identifications with certain groups, religious affiliations, align with certain values and morals, mass media etc.

Employee interactions with the organization, through other employees, management, customers, or others, reinforces (or resists) the employee identification with the organization . Simultaneously, the employee must manage their “true self” identification. In other words, identity is “fragmented and constructed” through a number of interactions within and out of the organization; employees don’t have just one self.

Most employees identify with not only the organization, but also other facets of their life (family, children, religion, etc.). Sometimes these identities align and sometimes they do not. When identities are in conflict, the sense of a healthy work-life balance may be affected. Organization members must perform identity work so that they align themselves with the area in which they are performing to avoid conflict and any stress as a result.


Today there are many young women who do not want to just stay at home and do house work, but want to have their careers. In fact, women may lose their self-esteem and identities when they stay at home; young women hope that their lives will include strong ties to the workplace.


Men know that work alone may not provide their lives with meaning. Young men can lose their meaning of life; they want a balance between paid work and personal attachments without being victimized at work.


Regarding home life, men and women have similarities with work and home life. Today, home is not a heavenly place which men and women could rest and feel comfort as before, but home is an additional place of work.

Work-life balance issues and their influence on children

An increasing number of young children are being raised by a childcare
Child care means caring for and supervising child/children usually from 0–13 years of age. In the United States child care is increasingly referred to as early childhood education due to the understanding of the impact of early experiences of the developing child...

 provider or another person other than a parent; older children are more likely today to come home to an empty house and spend time with video games, television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 and the internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 with less guidance to offset or control the messages coming from these sources.

No one knows how many kids are home after school without an adult, but they know the number is in the millions. Also, according to a study by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the “more time that children spent in child care, the more likely their sixth grade
Sixth grade
Sixth grade is a year of education in the United States and some other nations. The sixth grade is the sixth school year after kindergarten. Students are usually 11 – 12 years old...

 teachers were to report behavor problems.” The findings are the results of the largest study of child care and development conducted in the United States; the analysis tracked 1,364 children from birth.

Consequences of an Imbalance

Mental health is a balancing act that may be affected by four factors: the influence of unfavourable genes, by wounding trauma
Psychological trauma
Psychological trauma is a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a traumatic event...

, by private pressures and most recently by the stress
Stress (biology)
Stress is a term in psychology and biology, borrowed from physics and engineering and first used in the biological context in the 1930s, which has in more recent decades become commonly used in popular parlance...

 of working. Many people expose themselves unsolicited to the so-called job stress, because the "hard worker" enjoys a very high social recognition. These aspects can be the cause of an imbalance in the areas of life. But there are also other reasons which can lead to such an imbalance.

Remarkable is for example the increase in non-occupational activities with obligation character, which include mainly house and garden work, maintenance and support of family members or volunteer activities. All this can contribute to the perception of a chronic lack of time. This time pressure is, amongst others, influenced by the own age, the age and number of children in the household, marital status, the profession and level of employment as well as the income level. The psychological strain, which in turn affects the healthiness, increases due to the strong pressure of time, but also by the complexity of work, growing responsibilities, concern for long-term existential protection and more. The mentioned stresses and straints could lead in the long term to irreversible, physical signs of wear as well as to negative effects on the human cardiovascular and immune systems.

Psychoanalysts diagnose uncertainty as the dominant attitude to life in the postmodern society. This uncertainty can be caused by the pressure which is executed from the society to the humans. It is the uncertainty to fail, but also the fear of the own limits, not to achieve something what the society expects, and especially the desire for recognition in all areas of life. In today's society we are in a permanent competition. Appearance, occupation, education of the children - everything is compared to a media staged ideal. Everything should be perfect, because this deep-rooted aversion to all average, the pathological pursue to excellence - these are old traditions. Who ever wants more - on the job, from the partner, from the children, from themselves - will one day be burned out and empty inside. He is then faced with the realization that perfection do not exist. Who is nowadays empty inside and burned out, has in the common language a Burnout. But due to the definitional problems Burnout is till this date no recognized illness. An attempt to define this concept more closely, can be: a condition that get only the passionate, that is certainly not a mental illness but only a grave exhaustion (but, lo and behold, can lead to numerous sick days). It can benefited to the term that it is a disease model which is socially acceptable and also, to some extent, the individual self-esteem stabilizing. This finding in turn facilitates many undetected depressed people, the way to a qualified treatment. According to experts in the field are, in addition to the ultra hard-working and the idealists mainly the perfectionist
Perfectionism (psychology)
Perfectionism, in psychology, is a belief that a state of completeness and flawlessness can and should be attained. In its pathological form, perfectionism is a belief that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable...

, the loner
A loner is a person who avoids or does not actively seek human interaction or prefers to be alone. There are many reasons for solitude, intentional or otherwise, and "loner" implies no specific cause. Intentional reasons include spiritual and religious considerations or personal philosophies...

, the grim and the thin-skinned, especially endangered of a burnout. All together they usually have a lack of a healthy distance to work.

Another factor is also, that for example decision-makers in government offices and upper echelons are not allowed to show weaknesses or signs of disease
A disease is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. It is often construed to be a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune...

 etc., because this would immediately lead to doubts of the ability for further responsibility. It should be noted that only 20% of managers (e.g. in Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

) do sports regularly and also only 2% keep regularly preventive medical check-up. In such a position other priorities seem to be set and the time lacks for regular sports. Frightening is that the job has such a high priority, that people waive screening as a sign of weakness. In contrast to that, the burnout syndrome seems to be gaining popularity. There seems nothing to be ashamed to show weaknesses, but quite the opposite: The burnout is part of a successful career like a home for the role model family. Besides that the statement which describes the burnout as a "socially recognized precious version of the depression and despair that lets also at the moment of failure the self-image intact" fits and therefore concludes "Only losers become depressed, burnout against it is a diagnosis for winners, more precisely, for former winners.”.

However, it is fact that four out of five Germans complain about too much stress. One in six under 60 swallows at least once a week, a pill for the soul, whether it is against insomnia, depression or just for a bit more drive in the stressful everyday life. The phases of burnout can be described, among other things, first by great ambition, then follows the suppression of failure, isolation and finally, the cynical attitude towards the employer or supervisor. Concerned persons have very often also anxiety disorders and depressions, which are serious mental diseases. Depressions are the predominant causes of the nearly 10,000 suicides that occur alone each year in Germany. The implications of such imbalances can be further measured in figures: In 1993, early retirement
Retirement is the point where a person stops employment completely. A person may also semi-retire by reducing work hours.Many people choose to retire when they are eligible for private or public pension benefits, although some are forced to retire when physical conditions don't allow the person to...

 due to mental illness still made 15.4 percent of all cases. In 2008, there were already 35.6 percent. Even in the days of illness, the proportion of failures due to mental disorders increased. Statisticians calculated that 41 million absent days in 2008 went to the account of these crises, which led to 3.9 billion euros in lost production costs. For companies it is time to act and support their employees with a healthy work-life-balance.source needed

Responsibility of the employer

Companies have begun to realize how important the work-life balance is to the productivity and creativity of their employees. Research by Kenexa Research Institute in 2007 shows that those employees who were more favorable toward their organization’s efforts to support work-life balance also indicated a much lower intent to leave the organization, greater pride in their organization, a willingness to recommend it as a place to work and higher overall job satisfaction.

Employers can offer a range of different programs and initiatives, such as flexible working arrangements in the form of part time, casual and telecommuting work. More proactive employers can provide compulsory leave, strict maximum hours and foster an environment that encourages employees not to continue working after hours.

It is generally only highly skilled workers that can enjoy such benefits as written in their contracts, although many professional fields would not go so far as to discourage workaholic behaviour. Unskilled workers will almost always have to rely on bare minimum legal requirements. The legal requirements are low in many countries, in particular, the United States. In contrast, the European Union has gone quite far in assuring a legal work-life balance framework, for example pertaining to parental leave
Parental leave
Parental leave is an employee benefit that provides paid or unpaid time off work to care for a child or make arrangements for the child's welfare. Often, the term parental leave includes maternity, paternity, and adoption leave...

 and the non-discrimination of part-time workers.

According to Stewart Friedman -- professor of Management and founding director of the Wharton School’s Leadership Program and of its Work/Life Integration Project—a "one size fits all” mentality in human resources management often perpetuates frustration among employees. “[It’s not an] uncommon problem in many HR areas where, for the sake of equality, there's a standard policy that is implemented in a way that's universally applicable -- [even though] everyone's life is different and everyone needs different things in terms of how to integrate the different pieces. It's got to be customized.”

Friedman’s research indicates that the solution lies in approaching the components of work, home, community, and self as a comprehensive system. Instead of taking a zero-sum approach, Friedman’s Total Leadership program teaches professionals how to successfully pursue “four-way wins” -- improved performance across all parts of life.

Although employees are offering many opportunities to help their employees balance work and life, these opportunities may be a catch twenty-two for some female employees. Even if the organization offers part time options, many women will not take advantage of it as this type of arrangement is often seen as “occupational dead end” .

Even with the more flexible schedule, working mothers opt not to work part time because these positions typically receive less interesting and challenging assignments; taking these assignments and working part time may hinder advancement and growth. Even when the option to work part time is available, some may not take advantage of it because they do not want to be marginalized . This feeling of marginalization could be a result of not fitting into the “ideal worker” framework (see: Formation of the “ideal worker” and gender differences).

Additionally, some mothers, after returning to work, experience what is called the maternal wall. The maternal wall is experienced in the less desirable assignments given to the returning mothers. It is also a sense that because these women are mothers, they cannot perform as “ideal workers” . If an organization is providing means for working mothers and fathers to better balance their work-life commitments, the general organizational norm needs to shift so the “ideal worker” includes those who must manage a home, children, elderly parents, etc.

Global comparisons

According to a new study by Harvard
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 and McGill University
McGill University
Mohammed Fathy is a public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The university bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, whose bequest formed the beginning of the university...

 researchers, the United States lags far behind nearly all wealthy countries when it comes to family-oriented workplace policies such as maternity leave, paid sick days and support for breast feeding. Jody Heyman, founder of the Harvard-based Project on Global Working Families and director of McGill’s Institute for Health and Social Policy, states that, “More countries are providing the workplace protections that millions of Americans can only dream of. The U.S. has been a proud leader in adopting laws that provide for equal opportunity in the workplace, but our work/family protections are among the worst.”

This observation is being shared by many Americans today and is considered by many experts to be indicative of the current climate. However, the U.S. Labor Department is examining regulations that give workers unpaid leave to deal with family or medical emergencies (a review that supporters of the FMLA worry might be a prelude to scaling back these protections, as requested by some business groups). At the same time, Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 is proposing new legislation
Legislation is law which has been promulgated by a legislature or other governing body, or the process of making it...

 that would enable workers to take six weeks of paid leave. Congress is also expected to reconsider the Healthy Families Act which is a bill that would require employers with at least fifteen employees to provide seven paid sick days per year.

At the state level, California has paid family leave benefits for its workers. New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 lawmakers are pushing legislation that would make their state the second state to add this worker benefit. Under one New Jersey proposal, workers who take leave would be paid through the state’s temporary disability insurance fund, “augmented by a 0.1 percent charge on workers’ weekly wages.” Traditionally, many conservatives have opposed paid family leave, but there is a sign that this mindset is beginning to change. Reverend Paul Schenck, a prominent member of the National Pro-Life
Opposition to the legalization of abortion is centered around the pro-life, or anti-abortion, movement, a social and political movement opposing elective abortion on moral grounds and supporting its legal prohibition or restriction...

 Action Center recently stated that he would support paid maternity leave on the assumption that it might encourage women to follow through with their pregnancies instead of having abortions. According to Heyman, “Across the political spectrum, people are realizing these policies have an enormous impact on working families. If you look at the most competitive economies in the world, all the others except the U.S. have these policies in place.”

The United States is not as workplace family-oriented as many other wealthy countries. According to a study released by Harvard and McGill University researchers in February 2007, workplace policies for families in the U.S. are weaker than those of all high-income countries and even many middle-and low-income countries.

For example, the study notes that the United States is one of only five countries out of 173 that does not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave. (The other countries are Lesotho
Lesotho , officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave, surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. It is just over in size with a population of approximately 2,067,000. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name...

, Liberia
Liberia , officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Sierra Leone on the west, Guinea on the north and Côte d'Ivoire on the east. Liberia's coastline is composed of mostly mangrove forests while the more sparsely populated inland consists of forests that open...

, Swaziland
Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Swaziland , and sometimes called Ngwane or Swatini, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa, bordered to the north, south and west by South Africa, and to the east by Mozambique...

, and Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

). Other differences include the fact that fathers are granted paid paternity leave or paid parental leave in sixty-five countries; thirty one of these countries offer at least fourteen weeks of paid leave. The U.S. does not guarantee this to fathers.

At least 107 countries protect working women’s right to breast-feed and, in at least seventy-three of them, women are paid. The U.S. does not have any federal legislation guaranteeing mothers the right to breast-feed their infants at work. When it comes to sick days, 145 countries provide sick days to their employees; 127 provide a week or more per year.

There is not a federal law requiring paid sick days in the United States. At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week; the U.S. does not have a maximum work week length and does not place any limits on the amount of overtime
Overtime is the amount of time someone works beyond normal working hours. Normal hours may be determined in several ways:*by custom ,*by practices of a given trade or profession,*by legislation,...

 that an employee is required to work each week. (survey) Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 and Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 have the highest level of maternity benefits—Sweden provides 68 weeks paid maternity leave, Norway provides 56 weeks paid maternity leave and Denmark provides 52.

American workers average approximately ten paid holidays per year while British workers average twenty-five holidays and German employees thirty. Americans work twelve weeks more a year in total hours than Europeans.

In Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, the Working Time Regulation has implemented a maximum of forty-eight hours of work per week. Many countries have opted for fewer hours. France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 attempted to introduce a thirty-five hour workweek, and Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 experimented with a thirty-hour week in 1996. In a 2007, the European Quality of Life Survey found that countries in south-eastern Europe had the most common problems with work-life balance. In Croatia and Greece, a little over 70% of working citizens say that they are too tired to do household jobs at least several times a month because of work.

In Britain, legislation has been passed allowing parents of children under six to request a more flexible work
Labour market flexibility
Labour market flexibility refers to the speed with which labour markets adapt to fluctuations and changes in society, the economy or production.-Definition:In the past, the most common definition of labour market flexibility was the neo-liberal definition...

 schedule. Companies must approve this request as long as it does not damage the business. A 2003 Survey of graduates in the UK revealed that graduates value flexibility even more than wages.

In all twenty-five European Union countries, voters “punish” politicians who try to shrink vacations. “Even the twenty-two days Estonians, Lithuanians, Poles and Slovenians count as their own is much more generous than the leave allotted to U.S. workers.” According to a report by the Families and Work Institute, the average vacation time that Americans took each year averaged 14.6 days.

Even when vacation time is offered in some U.S. companies, some choose not to take advantage of it. A 2003 survey by Management Recruiter International stated that fifty percent of executives surveyed didn’t have plans to take a vacation. They decided to stay at work and use their vacation time to get caught up on their increased workloads.

See also

  • Money-rich, time-poor
    Money-rich, time-poor
    Money-rich, time-poor is an expression which arose in Britain at the end of the 20th century to describe groups of people who, whilst having a high disposable income through well-paid employment, have relatively little leisure time as a result....

  • Work-leisure dichotomy
    Work-leisure dichotomy
    The work–leisure dichotomy is the conceptual separation of activities in a society. Some societies assume, for the large part of the population which is in a condition of employee, a separation between "work" and "leisure". This idea was invented with the industrial revolution...

  • On-Ramping
    On-ramping is the process of re-entering the workforce after taking a career break . It is paired with the term "off-ramping", or exiting the workforce as a temporary career break....

  • Personal life
    Personal life
    Personal life is the course of an individual's life, especially when viewed as the sum of personal choices contributing to one's personal identity. It is a common notion in modern existence—although more so in more prosperous parts of the world such as Western Europe and North America...

  • Time bind
    Time bind
    Time bind is a concept introduced by sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in 1997 with the publication of her The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work...

  • Workaholic
    A workaholic is a person who is addicted to work.The term generally implies that the person enjoys their work; it can also imply that they simply feel compelled to do it...

  • Mompreneur
    Mompreneur is a neologism defined as a female business owner who is actively balancing the role of mom and the role of entrepreneur.The term has a dedicated section on the website, there is a Canadian magazine devoted to the topic, and an MSNBC article declaring the rise of the...

  • Work-Family Balance in the United States
    Work-Family Balance in the United States
    Work-family balance in the United States refers to the specific issues that arise when men and women in the United States attempt to balance their occupational lives with their family lives...

Stress related:
  • Burnout (psychology)
    Burnout (psychology)
    Burnout is a psychological term for the experience of long-term exhaustion and diminished interest. Research indicates general practitioners have the highest proportion of burnout cases; according to a recent Dutch study in Psychological Reports, no less than 40% of these experienced high levels of...

  • Occupational health psychology
    Occupational health psychology
    Occupational health psychology emerged out of two distinct applied disciplines within psychology, health psychology and industrial/organizational psychology, and occupational health. OHP is concerned with the psychosocial characteristics of workplaces that contribute to the development of...

  • Psychoneuroimmunology
    Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of the interaction between psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems of the human body...

  • Stress (biological)
  • Workplace stress
    Workplace stress
    Workplace stress is the harmful physical and emotional response that occurs when there is a poor match between job demands and the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker....

  • Labour law
    Labour law
    Labour law is the body of laws, administrative rulings, and precedents which address the legal rights of, and restrictions on, working people and their organizations. As such, it mediates many aspects of the relationship between trade unions, employers and employees...

  • Labour market flexibility
    Labour market flexibility
    Labour market flexibility refers to the speed with which labour markets adapt to fluctuations and changes in society, the economy or production.-Definition:In the past, the most common definition of labour market flexibility was the neo-liberal definition...

  • Death from overwork (Japan)
    , which can be translated literally from Japanese as "death from overwork", is occupational sudden death. Although this category has a significant count, Japan is one of the few countries that reports it in the statistics as a separate category...

  • Medical resident work hours
    Medical resident work hours
    Medical resident work hours is a term that refers to the often lengthy shifts worked by medical interns and residents during their medical residency. The issue has become a political football in the United States, where federal regulations do not limit the number of hours that can be assigned...

  • Superwoman (sociology)
    Superwoman (sociology)
    In sociology the term superwoman has been used to describe a Western woman who works hard to manage multiple roles of a worker, a homemaker, a volunteer, a student etc...

External links

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