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Is work-life balance the top priority for professionals today?

We have experienced moments of significant change in the past few years, such as technologies assisting work, as well as unprecedented challenges such as the pandemic, which has sparked an even greater expectation to have the time and space to consider how we integrate our life and work.

We have experienced moments of significant change in the past few years, such as technologies assisting work, as well as unprecedented challenges such as the pandemic, which has sparked an even greater expectation to have the time and space to consider how we integrate our life and work.

As a result, the discourse surrounding work-life balance is becoming more widespread, a phrase which you may have also heard flipped round to life-work balance, and even life-work integration. Research supplemented by some recent LinkedIn polls, reveals why organisations can no longer ignore the extent to which professionals expect and value work-life balance today.

Defining work-life balance
Finding a healthy balance between your professional and personal life will undoubtedly look different for everyone; typically, it means dedicating time and energy to each aspect, ideally feeling satisfied in both, without neglecting one or the other. A positive work-life balance not only reduces stress but also increases productivity.

When we talk about work-life balance, it’s something to aspire to, but in reality we’re looking for a work-life cadence that allows us to manage this for the majority of the time. Of course, this is not always attainable, so if you set yourself up to expect this all the time, this might cause unnecessary stress, as the demands of our professional and personal lives are bound to fluctuate.

The importance of work-life balance
According to our recent polls undertaken on LinkedIn, 90% of respondents justify the amount of attention being paid to how to practically create a work-life balance, saying it is an important factor to focus on today.

There are many key attributes to take into account for employees weighing up a prospective employer. According to our research, aside from pay, work-life balance is rated as the most important factor when contemplating a new job.

Whilst pay is important, especially in today’s economic climate, it’s certainly not everything. Notably, over half (56%) of professionals would be prepared to accept a lower salary for a better work-life balance. This illustrates how highly people prioritise achieving an equilibrium between their personal and professional lives. Therefore, in order to compete, and attract and retain talent, in today’s candidate-short market, offering and honouring a positive work-life balance is vital.

A better work-life balance is likely to have a positive impact on a number of key considerations, namely overall wellbeing, job satisfaction and professional productivity, with 63% of our poll respondents believing it would improve not one but all three.

Our research indicates how professionals feel about their own work-life balance. Optimistically, we have seen an upward trend over the last three years in terms of professionals giving their work-life balance a positive rating, increasing from 52% in 2020, to 54% in 2021 and most recently 59% in 2022. A large proportion (89%) of employees currently rate their work-life balance as either good or average.

Achieving work-life balance
The question of how to achieve and maintain a good work-life balance is one that needs active management. One of the clearly most recognised challenges is a blurring of the boundaries between life and work. For example, when it comes to mindset, our data shows that less than half (43%) of respondents feel they can fully switch off from work in their personal time, whilst 34% say they sometimes can and 23% are unable to separate the two. This has come into sharp focus in terms of work location, with the reality of hybrid working for many and the ongoing possibility of fully remote roles. This makes it more difficult to have a good work-life balance, as many people no longer have separate places to work and live.

When asked in our LinkedIn polls which factor would improve their work-life balance, almost half (49%) said a four-day working week would most improve their work-life balance. This is no surprise considering the recent, widely reported coverage of the UK’s four-day work week pilot. Our own recent survey about the four-day week found that 93% of respondents believe the four-day week is a good idea. Other considerations for improving one’s work-life balance include flexible hybrid working (34%) and flexible working hours (14%).

Regardless of how you choose to manage your own work-life balance, the discussion around what works for most people for most of the time, within an organisational and societal context, is set to continue. My advice is to make sure you regularly review and reflect in the boundaries that work for you both personally and professionally, to help achieve a balance that allows you to progress your career and live your life to the full.

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