Making the case for a personalised work-life balance
March 2020   THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

Making the case for a personalised work-life balance

Dr. Dan Ober is a Chief Medical Officer for Cigna in North America.
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Profession, family status, and gender can all play a role in the extent to which a healthy, satisfying work-life balance can be achieved.[1]

As such, various groups within the population have been recognised as particularly vulnerable to imbalance. This can expose them to unhappiness, stress, anxiety, depression, limited leisure and personal care time, and, in more extreme cases, medical conditions that include higher risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and high blood pressure. [1,2]

In 2019, the Cigna 360º Wellbeing Survey identified working women and members of the sandwich generation as two such vulnerable, at-risk groups. [3]

They, along with entrepreneurs and vocational professionals, have been found to suffer greater stress and enjoy a poorer work-life balance than other demographical sectors in the workforce. [3,4,5,6]

It can be argued that there are key factors at play with regards to each of these vulnerable groups. Vocational professionals have dedicated their lives to helping, supporting, teaching, and looking after other people, which in itself carries an emotional burden and dedication integral and arguably vital to their work. Entrepreneurs are solely responsible for ensuring the success of their companies; the sandwich generation must juggle earning an income with the logistical and emotional dedication required to support children and care for ageing parents; and working women often have to navigate a carefully curated balance of responsibilities at work and at home.

In the Cigna 360º Wellbeing Survey last year, 88% of working women reported suffering stress, and 13% reported stress that they find unmanageable. The first Wellbeing Insights Forum of 2020 focused on the topic of work-life balance, and touched on some of the issues faced by women in the workplace. During the panel discussion, Dr. Dan Ober, Medical Director, commented that “it may not be that they work too much in their job, but that there are too many demands all around, with children, school, and other responsibilities.”

“Working women often have to navigate a carefully curated balance of responsibilities at work and at home”

Comments from the International Labour Organisation support Dr. Ober’s hypothesis; explaining that the dramatic evolution of the role of women in the workforce have led to a “double burden” of both paid and unpaid work. [7] The same could be said for the sandwich generation, who also reported high levels of stress in the 360º Wellbeing Survey, along with heavy workloads, lack of financial stability, anxiety about the future, and concern for personal health.3 Their responses pointed to a lack of awareness among companies and organisations, who respondents felt did not provide workplace programmes conducive to meeting their specific needs, such as flexible working options and special leave arrangements. Almost two thirds of women stated that workplace wellness programmes need to better address specific needs by gender. [3]

“We need to look at culture, expectation, and personal sense of satisfaction”

It’s clear that the factors behind poor work-life balance are unique, and there is, therefore, an argument for a personalised solution. As Dr. Ober comments: “We need to look at culture, expectation, and personal sense of satisfaction. Work-life balance is individual for each of us, and the achievement of it depends on how you define it and whether you are satisfied with what you have. And I do believe in personalisation; stressors aren’t necessarily within an individual’s control, so a lot of it is perception. Therefore, you’re not dealing with facts or reality, you’re dealing with the person’s perception. We’re all individuals, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.”

Sources:

  1. Work-Life Balance. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/topics/work-life-balance/. Accessed March 09, 2020.
  2. Job burnout: how to spot it and take action. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/burnout/art-20046642. Accessed March 04, 2020.
  3. Cigna 360º Wellbeing Survey. https://wellbeing.cigna.com/360Survey_Report.pdf. Accessed March 04, 2020.
  4. What makes entrepreneurs burn out? Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2018/04/what-makes-entrepreneurs-burn-out. Accessed March 09, 2020.
  5. Kavur N, Pooja. Influence of Modern Technology on Work Life Balance of Teachers. Vol. 68 Issue 1. January 2020.
  6. Miyoung K, Windsor C. Resilience and Work-life Balance in First-line Nurse Manager. doi: 10.1016/j.anr.2014.09.003.
  7. Work-life balance. International Labour Organisation. https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/working-time/wl-balance/lang--en/index.htm. Accessed March 04, 2020.
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