Work and life. Most of us work so we can live, but for many, the scale tips in the other direction. In a 2002 study, Work-Family Spillover and Daily Reports of Work and Family Stress in the Adult Labor Force, researchers found evidence of an imbalance between the two, with an increasing amount of negative ‘spillover’ from work to family life. In such cases, the likelihood of stress within the family increased by 74 percent.
In addition to these findings, a survey conducted by the National Life Insurance Company found 40 percent of U.S. employees considered their jobs “very” or “extremely” stressful. Unfortunately, the American workplace is saturated with the sentiment that simply “working hard” is inadequate.
Extra hours for work are often carved out of hours spent with family, friends, leisure time, or sleep. The produce industry, with demanding hours and deadlines, certainly presents these challenges. Employers and employees have a real issue on their hands—one that needs to be actively managed for happiness at home and productivity in the workplace.
Defining ‘Work-Life’ Balance
In general terms, “work-life” balance refers to the stability between the amount of time and energy consistently spent on either work responsibilities or home life. According to Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky, a trained clinical psychologist, the concept was first introduced by Generation X individuals (those currently between the ages of 33 and 49) as an attempt to separate work and life.
The original idea revolved around thinking that both professional and personal development were of equal importance, yet should occupy completely separate spheres. The majority of Dr. Grodnitzky’s research, however, found profound differences between how such a balance was defined, particularly by age.
Baby Boomers created the 70- to 80-hour work week and often measured success with monetary gain. Most CEOs of this generation tend to have the same expectations of their employees—who may be of a different mindset. With many Baby Boomers aging out of the workforce, leaders are looking to the next generations to carry on their legacy.
Members of Generation X, as well as Generation Y (called ‘millennials’ and born since 1981), care less about materialistic gain and much more about work-life balance or what they perceive as a “blended life.” These groups, especially millennials, look for meaningful employment, promoting “big picture” causes; many also prefer not to be tied to a desk or office, using technology to perform work duties anywhere, day or night. Employers, however, may find such flexibility presents a challenge.
Other complexities affecting a work-life balance include caregiver roles. As employees grapple with balancing personal career aspirations with family priorities, conventional roles have fallen by the wayside with flex-time, job sharing, and the creation of at-home offices to accommodate these needs. The latter, of course, creates its own hazards as the workplace and home become one and the same, obscuring the line between personal and professional.