Work- Life Balance

20 Jun

In my last two blog posts “Burnout Syndrome: A Disease of Modern Societies?” and “Have you reached your limit yet?, I wrote about the burnout syndrome and how it is related to student’s work load at university.

Today, I want to discuss a concept which is very much related to the topic of burnout because in many guidebooks it seems to be the perfect way to cure people from a burnout syndrome or to even prevent it: Work-Life Balance!

When I first heard these work in my human resources class last semester, I thought this is something really great and helpful in our modern world of working where more and more women go to work and also want to have a family. But then I questioned myself if this concept of Work-Life Balance is really the perfect compensation between job, family and hobby?

A definition

First of all it is important to know what work-life balance actually means and I found a well fitting definition on the online encyclopedia “onpluson which states that “Work-life balance is the word for the fair balance between work and private life. Here, it is the balance between the time spent and the effort that someone dedicates to his or her work and the allocation of these two factors to other areas of life.”

In my opinion this shows properly and to the point what work- life balance is and what it actually means but on the other hand it is very simplistic and a little bit unrealistic because life isn’t just an equation with two variables that you just have to put into the right order, so let’s take a deeper look into that topic.

The case

Normally in our today’s business world, people are expected to achieve top performance in their jobs and climb the career ladder higher and higher, at home they have to take care of partners and children, and still want to practice their hobbies regularly. This sounds very easy to do right? At least self-help books and consultants promise that “We just have to organize our lives correctly and then it will work.”

But let’s be honest, not everything always works the way we have planned it to be. There is no such plan like a perfect life where everything is equally balanced because there are and will always be the unexpected factors which we can’t control, for example when your boss assigns you to a very important presentation you are supposed to give the next day. You probably would not have another choice than work the whole night through to get everything on time. Or your child gets sick the other and you have to stay at home and can’t go to work. No wonder that the claim of a perfect balance in life is more and more questioned.

A short glance on the history

Although, the work-life balance concept was originally intended to provide people with greater satisfaction in their lives. Coined in 1986, the term “Work- Life Balance” first appeared at the end of the 90s in the popular press. With the emergence of the new economy the demands on managers and employees intensified. To spend a night at the office, if necessary, was fashionable. The colleagues were also the best friends (or should be). “The workplace becomes a home,  the home becomes a workplace” asserted the sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in 1998.

The more women entered the workforce, and the more employment gained appreciation in public, the more private life was devalued. For singles this was not problem. But for people with families, this development led to new strains. To meet the growing demands, they had to strictly organize their daily lives outside of work. This is in most cases the cause of a burnout syndrome and an explanation why it appear so numerous in our modern society.


Nowadays, firms have already reacted to this frequently increasing ”trend”. For example, employers introduced flexible working hours and enabled child and dependent care support.

According to a representative study by the Institute of German economy, employees in almost 60 percent of the surveyed companies use such flexible working hours. The motives of the employers are not entirely generous. With such offers, they want to keep qualified employees and save money by limiting employee turnover and lower the status of employee’s illness for example people staying at home for several month because they suffer from a burnout.

Managers rarely make use of this type of offers, fearing they would lose their careers. Or have you ever seen a CEO working part time? I don’t think so and it is even difficult to imagine it.

Managers are more likely to rely on a newer version of the work-life balance concept, which is called: “There are times in life when the job plays the most important role and others, where the family or a hobby gain more weight in life”. But all at once simply does not exist.


“Manager have to learn, to consciously set themselves boundaries and don’t endlessly strive for more achievements, more success or acknowledgement.”

claims Harvard- Professor Howard Stevenson.


I think that Howard Stevenson is right with what he says because like I said earlier a manager working part time is just not possible and managers also do not have somebody on top of them who tells them what to do and where to stop they have to decide it on their own and in my opinion this is one of the reasons why manager are more likely to have a burnout. I also like the idea of dividing the times when the job is in the foreground of life and others where it is the family because it is a great middle way between a successful career and a harmonic family life. Of course, there will always be times when even this becomes almost impossible for some managers but I think these times can be limited of managers follow the advice of Howard Stevenson.

2 Responses to “Work- Life Balance”

  1. kizaza June 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Hey Ms. juleswilma,

    I read your title and thought “hmm I know what that is”. As I felt a little burnt out this semester, I was reading your article with a lot of expectation I think. You started very well, you immediately got my attention and you used many paragraphs and sub-headers to give your article a nice structure.

    As I said, I read your article with a lot of expectation. Why? I think I was looking for a remidy to cure my burn out feeling. Work-life balance sounded like a great principle. However, I was reading further and and further and actually wanted to read some methods to fight the burn out syndrom. I was just hoping you would have explained what I can do for myself not to feel burnt out. Does that make sense? Yes you wrote “flexible working hours […] child and dependent care support” were introduced by CEOs to increase the work life balance for employees. What can I do as a student though? Are there any general methods that I can apply?

    I like your writing style and that you included your own opinion. That makes it much more personal and therefore more interesting to read, at least for me.


  2. melissano18 June 23, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    Hey Jules!

    This is such a great post! I, as the reader, can totally tell that you have put a lot of work in this post. You did a lot of research and therefore this is a very professional post.
    It is very interesting, how you show different views and opinions on this topic (historical, a case, and a definition).
    What I like most about this blog post is the structure. The little subheadings support the structure even more and it is not hard at all for the reader to follow your thoughts.
    I can totally tell from your last 3 posts that you chose a topic, dug deeper and tried to view this topic in many different ways. For me this is a great development and improvement.
    Your pictures are as always very supportive and fit to the topic.
    Excellent, that you also showed your own opinion in the last paragraph.

    Great post, Jules! I am looking forward to your next post!

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