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Finding the True Meaning of Work Life Balance in Modern Times

By Dr. Mark Sirkin Subscribe to RSS | March 9th 2012 | Views:

Our daily lives are jam-packed with activities, appointments, and other responsibilities, all of which can create stress and anxiety, which may lead to family stress and conflict. Modern day families are prone to stress because family members, specifically parents, are required to work hard to provide for the needs of the family. Children, on the other hand, are exposed to various activities – friends, homework, videogames, Facebook – that take them away from their time with the family and may introduce additional stress in their lives as well. Work life balance is both a method and a goal to help families maximize quality time together.

The Myth of Work Life Balance

The term work life balance suggests that people give equal time and attention to all aspects of their lives. However, this is unrealistic because the demands of work and family simply aren’t in balance. If your boss tells you that something is due by a certain deadline, or your child gets sick and needs to go to the doctor, those activities become a priority and balance goes out the window. The unexpected demands or unpredictable nature of modern life require a certain amount of flexibility as well as realism. You can’t always plan for the unexpected, and sometimes you just have to drop everything to complete a project. These demands lead many parents, and even children, to feel stressed out because they feel they just can’t do it all in balance.

The sad part about this is that the ideal of work life balance is not possible, if by this you mean a perfectly predictable life that is equally balanced between work and family responsibilities. This means that parents will often spend more time at the office than in the house with family while the children will often spend more time in school, with friends, and other activities, away from the family. Further, family members cannot expect to spend equal time between work and family life. Trying to achieve that kind of balance is almost impossible nowadays.

Understanding Life Satisfaction

Fortunately, family members can still strive to achieve work life satisfaction in lieu of work life balance. Work life satisfaction requires a focus on meaningful activities that yield a sense of satisfaction for work (or recreation) well done, rather than a perfect balance of time among several activities. Work life satisfaction does not dwell on the quantity of hours spent with each aspect of a person‘s life; instead, work life satisfaction helps a person focus on achieving quality time with the family or at work; making your time count for something important. Finally, a focus on work life satisfaction helps a person find ways to reduce stress and anxiety by focusing on outcomes rather than mere time.

Three Aspects of Work Life Satisfaction

Work life balance is the end result of a series of satisfying work life experiences. The essential components of this balance include attention to:

• Time management

• Clarity of values

• Communication

Time management focuses on allocating the limited time in a day to activities that are most important. Clarity of values helps each person be clear about what is most important to them, while communication is important to let each family member know what each person needs. Attention to these aspects will help families achieve the elusive goal of work life balance by maximizing instances of work life satisfaction.

Dr. Mark Sirkin - About Author:
I have been helping modern families for over thirty years as a family therapist, writer, and consultant, as well as a trainer of family therapists. Family therapy was a new and exciting approach back in the 1970's and I was lucky to work with some of the great founders in the field: Salvador Minuchin, Lyman Wynne, Duke Stanton,Susan McDaniel, Evan Imber-Black and many others. I have lectured and written widely on these and many other topics related to helping modern working families.

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