Work Life Imbalance and the Fight for Holidays

Work life balance seems to be an issue for many of us, at least in the U.S. We have to find and arrange the time for leisure as work seems to take up much of our life. Apart from needing to work for our own survival, our work should hopefully enrich the society we live in. But do our long work hours actually lead to increased productivity?

Rebecca J. Rosen, writing for The Atlantic, asks “Why Do Americans Work So Much?” The sad reality is that many Americans are having to work for survival. They cannot afford to work fewer hours. Then, there are more affluent Americans who work a lot purely out of love for their job.

Overworking seems to be a badge of honor and “how do you have so much time on your hands?” is asked with a negative tone. On average, Americans work 47 hours per week and many workers feel that the advent of the Internet and cellphones have increased their work hours.

But what negative effects result in Americans’ work life imbalances and long workweeks?

Many employers seem to correlate long hours with productivity: the more you work, the more you accomplish. However, studies clearly prove that overworking harms an employee and in turn will hurt a company.

So what can employers do to improve their employees’ work-life balance?

1. Encourage taking time off.

Often we are at liberty to take time off — but we don’t. Overworking has become a badge of honor and leisure is met with snide remarks, commenting on how the individual is being decadent and they need to “get a job!”

“It starts at the top. CEOs should take their time off and encourage other management to do the same and make a point of it,” — John De Graaf, quoted in The Guardian.

Encourage a work life balance, NOT workaholism.

2. Respect for others time off.

As stated above, leisure is looked upon negatively. Our culture practically shames people taking days off and we flex our supposed superiority by comparing how many more hours we work than the next person.

Creating a culture that encourages leisure can lead to a better work environment: start a book club; during meetings, allot 5-10 minutes discussing what everyone’s holiday plans are; as an employer suggest fun activities to do — with overworking, many individuals have forgotten how to have fun!

3. Respect for National Holidays!

ThinkProgress had published an article, on how Americans are not guaranteed days off (paid or unpaid) on National Holidays. Every Thanksgiving and Fourth of July, there’s many of us who have gotten the day off doing our Google (or Yahoo or Bing if you prefer) searches on “What’s open on [insert Holiday name here]?”

By going out for a post-Thanksgiving meal on the day, we are reinforcing the need for some companies to stay open. As a result, those workers are not given the day off. If they are, it is perhaps unpaid and therefore they may need to work on those days for their own survival.

Black Friday is such an obsession that some stores open on Thanksgiving Night, as they cannot actually wait till Friday to let the droves of consumers in.

As we can see, holidays and leisure time are not taken too seriously in the States. The overwork which we value so much does not improve productivity much and has a negative effect on our work culture.

Maybe it’s time for a change — and a break!

Raghav Suri