Treatments & Therapies

Work-Life-Balance – Lexicon for Medicine & Health

Work-life balance

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the balance between work and private life has steadily deteriorated in recent years in industrialized countries such as Germany and Europe in general. A lot of overtime, a high pressure to succeed, constant availability via e-mails and telephone with smartphones and the possibility of being able to continue working at home via the Internet have a negative effect on switching off after work. On the contrary, there are numerous workers who cannot rest day or night because they cannot clear their heads and continue to worry about work that has not been completed or problems at work. This has a correspondingly negative effect on the psyche, listlessness, the loss of social contacts and even burn-outcan be the result, for example.

What is work-life balance?

The term work-life balance comes from the English and consists of the words work (= work), life (= life) and compensation (= balance).

The work-life balance describes a state in which working life and professional life should be in harmony. This is immediately the goal of work-life balance: to create a situation in which life is balanced, the areas of work and private life can be seen separately from one another and thus a satisfactory situation can be created for each individual worker.

The work-family conflict as a basis

The work-family conflict primarily describes the feeling of stress that arises due to the incompatibility of work and family life. While balancing work, personal life, and hobbies can be a daunting task for some, it’s even more difficult when the worker has a family of their own. Especially in times when households with double earners are the order of the day, everyday family life can quickly suffer or fall by the wayside.Faced with this potential issue, some couples think twice about actually starting a family or continuing to focus on their careers. If there is a family, parents face various problems. This begins with the search for suitable childcare for the time when both parents are working, continues with financial provision and the associated worries and ends with the possibility that a child’s development could be negatively influenced if the parents Unable to balance work and family. If a mother or father cannot switch off after work and give their children the attention they need, a child cannot feel as comfortable as it should.

Ultimately, it is important, especially with regard to a sensible family life, that parents create a balance between work and private life, which in reality is easier said than done. In the meantime, families with this problem are no longer left to their own devices. Many companies offer measures to harmonize the work-life balance – a company ultimately also benefits when employees feel comfortable both professionally and privately.

Goals in work and private life

Everyone has specific goals that they want to achieve in life. Some of these are those that have been set for a distant future, others are designed to significantly improve the quality of life and ensure a satisfactory life in the long term. Setting a goal is also important in order to create a guide for yourself. Both in terms of career – for example a desired promotion – and in private life, setting goals is a good way to set yourself an incentive, but also a limit.

The private values

When it comes to private values, family, friends, hobbies and relaxation come first. In order to achieve these goals, it is important to switch off from work. However, this is problematic for many because money is usually needed to achieve the goals and money comes from work, so that some people think that it is hardly possible to separate work and private life. Nevertheless, goals for private life should first be set, possibly even with a time limit, but not too tightly set, so as not to run the risk of putting too much pressure on yourself.

Family

Sooner or later, almost everyone thinks about starting a family, about settling down, so to speak. It starts with longing for a happy and functioning partnership. A partner with whom a lot of time can be spent and who may at some point be ready for the next step – such as marriage.

After this cornerstone of starting a family, family planning usually begins. The first own child is brought into the world and from this point on the focus is on offering the child a secure future. This means ensuring a secure residence in the form of building or buying a house, investing in financial security with savings accounts or shares, being a good role model for the child, providing support and promoting their talents.

Furthermore, one of the family goals is often to provide for one’s own parents in old age: either to ensure good care or to be able to take them into their own home. But the most important thing in family terms is the goal of spending a lot of time together.

Self-expression

In addition to the family, there must also be time for oneself in order to be satisfied. This means setting goals in the hobby area. For example, wanting to achieve a certain sporting achievement or registering for a club or a course in the near future.

Being able to make time for friends is also an important goal. Social contacts are crucial in order to be able to create a personal balance. Joint ventures such as cinema, disco, bar or eating out should therefore not be neglected.

Recreation

Everyone needs a break from time to time. You should definitely treat yourself to this in order to be fully productive again afterwards. Here, goals can be, for example, a long-dreamed cruise, a summer vacation abroad, but above all steady relaxation that takes place again and again. Being able to give yourself a few hours to yourself once a week, take a long bath, go to the tanning salon, or lie in the garden with a good book are goals that are easy to achieve, but are also very essential.

The professional goals

Anyone who has no goals in their job will usually not be satisfied and will not be able to achieve exceptional performance. An employee then simply lives for the day and could soon be frustrated with his everyday work.

Career advancement

A big goal in professional terms is promotion. This depends on several factors and in some cases is not quite as quick and easy to achieve. Nevertheless, it is worth keeping this goal in mind. It serves as an incentive and reassurance that the current position does not have to be carried out for the rest of one’s working life. If this hard-earned goal is achieved, the motivation is all the greater to set further career advancement goals.

Secure salary

Money is essential for survival in today’s society. Although a well-functioning social system ensures that people do not have to live completely without money and that the state pays for basic needs in case of doubt, hardly anyone can be satisfied with that. Many therefore set themselves the ultimate professional goal of earning a secure and regular income.

With this income, various other worries disappear and this is where private and professional life meet again: Anyone who receives a secure salary can finance the most important needs of their family and also treat themselves to one or the other to improve the quality of life.

Measures in companies

The reasons for this are obvious: when employees have found a healthy balance between work and free time, they are more balanced in their workplace. On the one hand, this means that they are more motivated to do their work and, on the other hand – and this is the most important thing for employers – they can deliver the best possible performance. However, if the employee is stressed at work, this usually affects his private life as well. He is listless, irritable and may let his private environment feel this. If private life is no longer in order, this in turn affects work and the employee finds himself in a vicious circle.

In the long run, this means that the employee is not only unmotivated but, in the worst case, becomes ill from this stressful situation. Depression or burnout can result. In order to prevent this, the employer can also take action by offering appropriate measures for a good work-life balance and thus creating a good working atmosphere.

Such measures also benefit the employer’s reputation, as he is regarded as an attractive employer and can therefore better bind his employees to the company, but also has a greater choice in the competition for a vacant position.

Fit at work

Not only motivation and a good mood are important at work, but also your own fitness. Being fit has several advantages:

  • Increased resistance to diseases
The annual flu epidemic is a good example of this. Those who are fit get sick less often and can be resistant to the impending cold. If this applies to a large part of the workforce, the employee can expect a significantly lower rate of absenteeism due to illness.
  • More energy
Fit workers are more resilient because they have more energy. They are also not as easily distracted from their work as those who do not have a certain level of fitness and the stamina that goes with it.

However, a certain level of fitness can also influence other areas such as one’s own self-confidence, a better attitude towards life and the ability to work in a team.

This required fitness does not have to come from the employee alone by doing sports in their free time. Companies can also support their employees by offering sports and wellness offers.

  • It starts with healthy eating. Instead of the usual canteen food with fries and the like, you can switch to health-conscious nutrition. If there is no canteen, it makes sense to set up a snack box or a vending machine with appropriately healthy food.
  • It is also a good idea to promote physical activity, for example by forming a company team – which also promotes a sense of togetherness – or by having the membership in a fitness center paid for in whole or in part by the company.
  • The use of the right furniture should also not be underestimated, because the right office chairs, desks or monitors can already bring about a significant improvement in working conditions. A wide range of guidelines, such as the VDU Work Ordinance, which is explained in more detail at the following address , serve as a benchmark. Ergonomics in particular is a decisive aspect, since back pain or concentration problems, for example, can be better contained in this way – at the moment, however, the implementation of these and other measures in German offices is still a rarity.
  • Seminars that may take place in the employer’s free time but are of great benefit, such as a smoking cessation seminar, are also well received. Both employee and employer benefit from this: the employee can get rid of an annoying vice, the employer does not have to be annoyed about smoking breaks.

Flexibility in time & place

A very important measure on the way to a satisfactory job is the regulation of working hours. Employees with families in particular often have problems juggling work and family – which in turn leads to stress. The employer can remedy this in the form of various working time models: Flexitime, part-time, shift work or even job sharing – two or three part-time employees share a position and can regulate their working hours among themselves – are good offers here.

Above all, it is important that the employer trusts his employee, but that the employee also appreciates this trust and, despite flexitime, for example, fulfills his obligations properly.

Another sign of trust on the part of the employer is the flexibility in terms of work location. Some activities could be done from home. Here is a possible measure that the employee does not have to come to the office every day, but can also work at home in the home office for a few days.

“Holistic management” of a company

It used to be like that and it is still common practice in many companies today: mechanical management. In the meantime, however, it has gone out of fashion and many companies realize that holistic management is much more effective.

With mechanical management, the employees are led to a specific goal by a manager or they are shown one thing.

In holistic management, on the other hand, it is important that the actions and reactions of the sub-areas (e.g. warehouse, logistics, accounting, etc.) are included in decisions and help to achieve the desired goals. Communication is an important tool here, which on the one hand helps the organization of the company to manage and on the other hand promotes self-organization.

Accordingly, although the employees still report to a manager, they actively contribute to business activities based on their opinions and suggestions and are therefore part of the decision-making process. In this way, employees have the opportunity to get involved effectively in what is happening and feel that they have a stronger and more important role in major decisions.

Flexible parental leave

Both mothers and fathers have a right to parental leave from the birth of the child. One parent or both together can take parental leave for up to three years. The law regulates the most important things when it comes to parental leave, but that does not mean that these regulations are also the most favorable for parents.

An employer who cares about the well-being of their employees can approach their employees at this point and offer them flexible parental leave. This means, for example, that the father or mother does not necessarily have to take the three years of parental leave in one go after the birth, but also the last 12 months only during the first school year. However, the legislation has taken a step towards parents at this point anyway: From July 1, 2015, the last 24 months are available flexibly and approval from the employer is then no longer required. The topic is taken up again here in more detail.

Returning to work after parental leave is also regulated by law, but not all parents actually want to spend the entire parental leave at home. Here the employer can accommodate his employee again and offer him a part-time position with, for example, 15 hours per week.

Practical examples

It is clear that a good work-life balance has advantages for both the employer and the employee. But there are still companies that do not seem to attach importance to their employees being balanced and satisfied, including large companies. Others, on the other hand, have recognized the importance of a healthy work-life balance and are offering appropriate measures. The following examples provide an insight into the various measures and their implementation:

Deutsche BahnAccording to its own statements, Deutsche Bahn attaches great importance to the balance between work and family. For this reason, it offers its employees flexible working hours and teleworking. The company also offers a “family service” that takes care of arranging childcare options nationwide and has set up its own company kindergarten in Duisburg.
Federal agency for workThe Federal Employment Agency has also established how important the work-life balance is for employees and, for example, offered the workshop “Work-life balance – easier said than done” for those in employment, those looking for a job and those returning to work. Furthermore, the BA has developed a three-phase concept for returning to work after parental leave. Corresponding brochures on the subject are also available from the Federal Employment Agency.
Tchibo GmbHTchibo GmbH sees itself as a family business and attaches great importance to work-life balance. Appropriate health promotions such as ergonomic workplaces, a company leisure center and a range of balanced meals in the staff restaurant are available. Daycare places are available in various facilities, a nationwide family service that takes care of worries and problems and even has its own Kidz Playground holiday program in Hamburg. The company is open to part-time, home office and job sharing.

The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth has compiled further practical examples for a successful implementation of the work-life balance in a guide .

Impending dangers

If there is no work-life balance, the employee faces various dangers as described above. Imbalance, lack of motivation and listlessness are the first signs, which over time can also develop into deeper psychological problems such as insomnia , depression and burnout.

Burnout syndrome

The burnout syndrome in particular is a serious problem. The affected person feels completely burned out and emotionally exhausted. This condition is often not easy to get rid of with a short rest, many of those affected literally sink into a swamp of depression and inner emptiness, so that suicidal thoughts can even arise.

The OECD Better-Life Index – Which countries have a good work-life balance?

The OECD Better-Life Index updates its work-life balance rankings on a daily basis. While the statistics are not representative, as site visitors are solely responsible for submitting their data, there is a clear trend in some countries.Denmark tops the list of countries with a good work-life balance. The OECD average for hours spent on leisure activities, eating and sleeping is 15 hours. In Denmark, on the other hand, it is 16.1 hours.

In second place is Spain with 16 hours, followed by Belgium with 15.7 hours. Germany is in 7th place with 15.3 hours and is still above average. Incidentally, Mexico brings up the rear, followed by Turkey.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.