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Continued from Previous……
Let us look at the reasons which may cause Work Life Imbalance.
- Men at Work: We are a patriarchal society. Men are supreme and have to be in commanding position. We have a work life and a home life, and we prefer to keep the two separated so much that the person at work is quite different from the person at home. Some men who command at work have no say at home; and some men who are tyrants at home have no say at work. Men are actually confused about the work life balance. They spend more time at work under the pretext that they are working hard to provide for the family, and they should be recognized for that. They deliberately stay away from home for extended periods even when they are not working. They insist on having a work life totally separated from home. On the other extreme, there are those who pretend to be so family oriented that they would take a day off for minor reasons. They let the work suffer and claim that the family is supreme. These are conceptual confusions leading to work life balance issues.
- Women at Work: It has been proved beyond doubt that the presence of women at senior positions adds value to work and reduces incidence of wrongdoings. However, women were and still are at serious disadvantage at work. And this is so all over the world. Women are paid less for the same jobs; they are passed over for promotions; they have an extremely poor representation at the senior positions, particularly C-suite. There is discussion and planning to increase women’s share in the senior positions, but the targets have been missed by a wide margin. McKinsey is probably following this cause most seriously and keeps pointing out the achievements and failures. In Pakistan, we have other social issues as well. Women have to seek permission from family to work; they can do some jobs but not others; they have to look after home matters even when they have an equally demanding job as their men. They have to refuse promotions if it entails more time at work or traveling or relocation. For women, work life balance is mostly beyond their rights.
- Personal Disorganization: Personal organization is a trait mostly learned during early years at home and school. Learning deficit at that time shall haunt for the rest of the life. In other cases, children taught to organize become disorganized as a matter of rebellion as adults. Personal disorganization reflects in jumbled priorities, failure to deliver on deadlines, and lack of quality work. Personal disorganization, if not inherent, may also be forced by poor work design, overbearing managers who keep their subordinates on toes but confuse them by contradictory instructions.
- Performance Pressure: Everyone wants to succeed; get fast promotions; have fat increments; and achieve higher recognition. Performance Anxiety is an established fact and is necessary to perform better. However, when it goes over the threshold, performance anxiety negatively affects performance. This phenomenon has always been around, but it keeps varying with economic conditions. In Pakistan, the economic performance varies widely despite claims of great achievements by successive governments. In fact, the more the economic performance deteriorates, the political rhetoric increases. Performance pressure on employees increases with unfavorable economic conditions; they have to worry more about sticking to the job, because survival may not depend upon performance alone. It is easy to understand that work life balance in such situations will only be seen as a luxury and will not be pursued.
- Peer Pressure: Every organization has a certain culture even when it is not defined clearly. One integral part of culture is ‘the way the things are done around here’. If the culture is of sitting late because the boss (mostly the business owner) comes to office late and likes to sit late, everyone is forced to sit late. If some of the peers always or mostly sit late, others are under pressure to do so. Peer pressure works in several mysterious ways on everyone. From the dress style, to mannerism, to socializing, to work ethics, to needing approval, to keeping the bosses happy, to sacrificing personal values, to remaining unfulfilled, peer pressure has much to contribute. Work life balance is likely to be seriously affected in these situations.
- Personal Orientation: We carry different orientations about work and life. From being utterly careless about work to being overly cautious, the spectrum is quite wide. Same is true about life. From being jolly and happy to being serious and concerned, is another wide spectrum. Our personal orientation is mostly a constant factor; it does not vary much with external factors. Our orientation about work life balance shall determine how we manage it and how we sustain it.
- Personal Goals: These are usually set by those who display seriousness about what they would like to achieve. Our goals are mostly driven more towards career; less towards life. Since we normally do not have balance in goals, we are bound to tilt toward one side. Work life balance is not likely to be maintained in this case. The most pertinent example is that of immigrants. They deliberately do not care about work life balance because they have to survive first and thrive later. They have specific goals to achieve and they will do anything to achieve those goals. Immigrants anywhere work much harder and, in many cases, cheaper also. One would also sacrifice work life balance for some time in order to achieve a bigger goal. In such cases, discussion of work life balance is wrongly placed.
- Point in Career Trajectory: Work life balance changes with where we are in the course of our career. At the entry position, we are eager to learn; we are alone and do not mind working extra. As we move further, we start looking forward to progressing in career and put our best foot forward. This is the most happening time of our life. We may get married, may have kids, may have other responsibilities such as old parents. The demands on our time are many and we feel pressurized from all sides for time. This is the time where work life balance is most important. By the time we reach the last part of career, we have usually become free from responsibilities; we have done Umrah and Hajj; we have attained a senior position; and life has become comfortable. Work life balance is not relevant anymore; we are peaceful already.
In the next post, we shall continue to look at factors causing loss of work life balance.