March 14, 2024

Tackling Life Balance to Avert a Wellbeing Crisis

A photograph of a person balancing on a train line.

A recent study by McKinsey & Company showed that nearly half of all employees reported signs of burnout, and poor work-life balance was reported as their greatest concern. McKinsey postulated that the numbers were understated due to exhausted employees leaving the workforce. We agree that the number is probably understated, but not for the same reason. We argue that the primary consequence of life imbalance is self-neglect, however there is a lag between the imbalance occurring and the toll on our wellness being felt, so the full impact of the Covid-related changes in working patterns remains to be seen. We may be able to keep going temporarily with impaired wellness, but it is not sustainable. Our previous studies have shown that reduced wellness negatively affects motivation and performance, which means that managers need to act now. We surveyed 400 people to test our hypothesis (the detailed results can be found here).

Our recently introduced life balance framework (we shun the idea of a work-life distinction in favour of whole life balance or Life Return on Investment, you can read the article here) proposes that we have finite resources, including time, energy, and material assets, that we can allocate to the various life domains of work, social life, and personal life in a way that satisfies our needs and wants. The demands of our personal lives can be further divided into self-care in the form of rest, recovery, and general health, and personal growth and development. The survey tested the relationship between the key life domains and their impact on life satisfaction, which is strongly linked with motivation and performance.

The first important finding was that scores within the three domains are significantly correlated. This supports the hypothesis that when there is an imbalance, the entire system is affected. When we expend more resources than expected in one domain, we have fewer resources available to satisfy the requirements of the other domains.

Second, life satisfaction is strongly impacted by life balance. The results showed that feeling energised and optimistic about the future was significantly predicted by all three domains.

Third, and most importantly, our work and social domains dominate our personal demands, particularly those related to self-care. When we think about life satisfaction, we think about work, our social life, and our personal growth but we tend to disregard our wellness. We neglect our mental and physical health until we must attend to it just to keep going; the demands of self-care only grow louder when something is intensely wrong. Thus, the primary consequence of a life imbalance is a decline in wellness, marked by a less healthy lifestyle, lack of sleep, increased anxiety, and lower moods.

Life balance plays a pivotal role in ensuring we stay well and feel satisfied. Consequently, we need to be acutely aware of the risks of neglect of our personal care relative to our work and social domains and personal growth.

Mental and physical wellbeing are critical resources for fulfilling demands in the other life domains, they are essential for sustainable performance and resilience. It is crucial to balance our resource input so as not to neglect these.

If 49% of the workforce is currently showing signs of burnout and if life balance is a primary driver of this, companies must act now to prevent a future crisis in employee wellness, motivation, and performance. And yet, McKinsey noted that 40% of companies had not communicated any plans relating to post-Covid working practices and a further 28% had only communicated vaguely.

MindAlpha Life Balance Workshops provide workable solutions. Using our framework, we help people to co-create and embed simple practices and habits to help maintain the ideal balance across the three life domains, thus providing individuals and organisations with a robust and sustainable platform for success.

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