Americans are working longer hours than ever before. Statistics show that more than 50 percent of all workers, male and female, are going above and beyond the standard 40-hour-per-week model.
There can be a number of reasons behind this trend: one of them is that there’s no uniform legislation in the U.S. to limit the workweek. But while many believe putting in more hours means getting more done, some countries are proving this wrong. For example, German workers don’t put in nearly as many hours as the British, but their productivity has been reported as considerably higher.
One thing’s for sure – more hours worked means less time to live life outside of the office. And the belief that working tirelessly around the clock is somehow a benefit has been dispelled. In fact, a study has shown that working beyond 50 hours per week begins to become counterproductive.
However, at the same time, sitting at home staring at a television or doing nothing at all is not what work/life balance is all about. It’s about actually engaging in lifestyle choices that you enjoy, says Dieter Dammeier, who is an experienced attorney in Rancho Cucamonga, California, and has also served in law enforcement.
Work/Life Balance Is a Happiness Measure
The 2017 World Happiness Report suggests that work/life balance is becoming a more prominent predictor of happiness.
However, at the time of that report, more than 50 percent of workers in the country said they’re not happy with their work – and it’s not necessarily because of the job itself (although blue collar workers report lower overall happiness), but how long they spent doing it every week and how much autonomy they have, notes the report.
And it’s not just the number of hours worked, but how they’re arranged, says Dieter Dammeier. More specifically, it’s about creating sense of flexibility to do what one wants during a day while still fulfilling job duties, which means stepping outside of the traditional 9 to 5 model. That frees up time to allow for other activities that contribute to happiness, such as adding more social time, he notes.
More autonomy is directly related to how engaged a person is with their work, according to data from the report. That suggests that spending more time in other areas of life – whether it’s a hobby or a fun side project that can get put on the backburner due to long hours – will in fact lead to more focus on the job.
Better Overall Health
Sitting at a desk for eight or more hours per day (and answering emails when not in the office) is not exactly what’s in the brochure when it comes to best health practices, says Dieter Dammeier. Guidelines say that an adult should get about 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week.
The problem, he adds, is that working a block of hours each day limits when physical activity can be fit in. Some might be the type to go for an early morning jog, or to hit the gym in the evening, but some people prefer to workout during the day. Breaking up a workday to fit in some quality exercise can give bodies a boost and reduce the chance of high blood pressure and other health issues, he adds.
Meanwhile, taking more time away from work tasks can have mental benefits. Stress can build up and lead to depression or even burnout, which is bad news for the employee and the employer, he explains.
More Opportunities For Relaxing and Self-Reflection
Organizing a workday to allow for a particular lifestyle is one step. But making time for extended vacations is another important aspect of the work/life balance, explains Dieter Dammeier.
Perhaps surprisingly, almost half of Americans do not use their entire allotted vacation time, and the main reason is that many workers feel they have too much on their plate to leave the office (and don’t want to come back to a mess), he explains.
However, while each person has their own requirements when it comes to downtime, continuously working does not allow one to assess where they are and where they want to be in life. And on that note, taking time off to travel to a new place can have several benefits from lowering stress to being more available to family members, he adds.
In conclusion, making more time to enjoy the things one loves in life can make one a more focused and productive worker –which is a win-win, concludes Dieter Dammeier.