“An estimated 137 million working days were lost due to sickness or injury in the UK in 2016, according to a new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This was equivalent to 4.3 days per worker, the lowest recorded rate since the series began in 1993, when the number was 7.2 days per worker.”
Commenting on the findings of the report, ONS statistician Brendan Freeman said:
“Since 2003, there has been a fairly steady decline in the number of working days lost to sickness, especially during the economic downturn. In recent years, there has been a small rise in the number of days lost, but due to an increasing number of people entering the workforce, the rate per worker and overall sickness absence rate have stayed largely flat.”
The story we are familiar with is of an increasingly tense workplace which demands more of us. It is a good thing to question assumptions sometimes, and the above quote is fascinatingly challenging, and suggests it is possible that things are getting better not worse.
It is certainly the case that many of the millennial generation seem to have higher expectations and demand a more balanced life than previous generations (see our eBook on the managing the millennial generation). So perhaps the trend may now be towards a better work life balance?
Sometimes I wonder whether work / life balance is an appropriate term? For some of us work is part of life, and a very gratifying part too. We want to make an impact and do well for ourselves and for others. Perhaps it is not a choice between work or life, perhaps work could be a great part of life. It may be worth examining for ourselves what we get from work, how it contributes to our sense of well-being, and embrace it instead of believing that it is reducing the element of ‘life’ that we experience.
We all need balance, but perhaps work is just part of life, not something that requires balancing with the rest of life?
I would without doubt agree we need balance in our lives so that we feel we are getting all we personally need. The dilemma is that different people need different balances. For some, full parenthood and no corporate life is a valid way forward. For others, total absorption in a work project for all waking hours is actually satisfying. Perhaps the issue is the awareness of what we personally need, rather than focusing on the work / non-work balance.
All this boils down to the fundamental question of ‘where do we want to be and how are we going to get there?” Sometimes, to be excellent at something needs a dedication which tips the balance into the work realm for a period of time. At other times in our life, perhaps we need more time with the family and with our social agenda. It’s all down to what is appropriate for us at the time.
Mark Miller is MD of Goodfoot, and author of 'Hamsters Can't Dance", a tongue in cheek look at management challenges.
I would personally suggest examining whether we are getting what we want out of work. If we are, then the work/life balance dilemma is somewhat easier to solve. If we dislike what we do, work/life balance becomes more of an issue. So perhaps one way of solving the work/life balance debate is to aim more decisively on what we would like to be doing at in the workplace?
We all do better at what we like to do, and what we like to do is worth pursuing. Do feel free to download our tip-sheet about work/life balance, we hope you find it interesting and thought stimulating, (especially tip number 4 !!).