For the vast majority of us who did not inherit wealth from our parents, we must work to earn a living for ourselves and our families. And if you have known great poverty and are the first in your family ever to go to university, the first to have a professional job, you are likely to be driven by many other things than a desire to get a better work-life balance.
In places like Lagos and recently, Port Harcourt, the pressure emanates not just from the traffic one must face as early as 5:00 a.m., but also the pressure of working extra hard to satisfy one’s employer. So many applications on the desk of your human resources manager are competing for your position.
It can get awful when bosses take advantage of the effort of people to earn a living and become overly demanding and unappreciative. Such exploitative firms/bosses don’t mind working for their staff out for up to 60 hours a week.
In such circumstances, many organizations are gripped by a toxic testosterone culture, that aggressive, competitive behavior, where people seek to prove they are harder working and more committed than each other by being ever-present and engaged at work.
So the pressure to work extra hard to meet employers’ expectations to keep your job is there, but that daily grind usually has implications on performance, health, family, and a whole gamut of negative fallouts contrary to the desires of all stakeholders.
Over time, the stress of work turns into implicit discontent, which is a major cause of lost productivity. Consequently, employees work with the attitude of merely fulfilling a duty, not necessarily expanding their mental faculties to achieve the best results. They may take time off work at the least excuse, find it difficult to concentrate, and achieve results more slowly than their physical and mental synergies would afford. They may be unhappy with work or with their personal lives and these emotions connect together. That is when work-life stress creeps in, and it can be long-term.
It is difficult for a company to survive by making people miserable. All successful businesses want their customers to be happy, suppliers to be happy, and workers to be happy. Win, win, win. That means treating people like we would like to be treated ourselves, fairly, with respect, with care, and understanding.
Although in difficult economic times, a healthy work-life balance is less talked about, when people are grateful to have a job at all, it remains in people’s recesses. It still matters.
A litany of researches shows that organizations that focus on employees’ welfare and job flexibility, offering career breaks and part-time contracts are likely to do better in retaining their most talented workers, particularly women.
And as many companies have discovered, paying attention to work-life balance can be one of the most powerful ways to become an employer of choice. Companies that understand the deeper needs of their staff, who realize they have a life outside of work, can pay less than others for the same quality of people because such workplaces are so attractive to be in. Work-life balance is vital to getting and keeping talented people.
Long work hours damage health, mental well-being, productivity and cause workplace accidents or errors of judgment. Long hours destroy relationships at home, cause the breakup of marriages, and can result in damage to children. By implication, such drudgery has implications on the wider society. Such work culture has become a slog to too many of us. That dread of work can easily be tantamount to economic slavery.
The trend is fast becoming a labor culture in Nigeria. Like lemmings walking over a cliff, the entire community continues with a way of life very few of them approve of.
Work-life balance can be improved by some simple steps. They may include having flexible work hours – start and finish, and flexible work location, especially with the available technology to do so sequel to COVID-19 protocols.
It may be in the form of extra unpaid leave for study and other non-work-related activities.
When employees are refreshed, the best comes out of them, much to the benefit of the larger organization, including optimal productivity and less cost. Society at large also stands to benefit from such labor culture.