Why good work-life balance leads to better careers

work-lifeThe line has become increasingly blurred between our professional and personal lives in recent years, with growing attempts to marry both in a kind of uniform purpose to life.

The importance of purpose was underlined by a recent study that set out to explore the kind of things we take into consideration when planning our career.

Satisfied with our lot

The study found that when we take into account a wide range of factors, including our family life, when we plan our career, we end up much happier and more satisfied with the career we have.  What’s more, this more holistic approach appeared to have no (negative) impact on our earnings either.

Suffice to say, such non-work factors are not something we all take into account when planning our career, and their influence on our eventual happiness has not really been examined much by academia.

With whole life purpose now as important as it’s ever been however, this study is certainly timely.  It followed 500 German employees over a six month period to examine both how integrated work and family were in their career planning, and then their satisfaction with the careers they had.

A balanced life

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this focus on a balanced life not only led to a happier work life, but a greater level of satisfaction with life in general.  Interestingly, when this was itemized, it emerged that the level of family orientation we have had the biggest impact on our satisfaction with life.

Equally interesting was the finding that there appeared to be no tangible differences between male and female employees in terms of the impact family considerations had on satisfaction levels, although women were found to take this into account more often than men.

“In many organisations, there is still a prevailing image that an ideal employee completely and totally lives for work. On the other hand, people who are strongly involved in nonwork activities are often told that they do not have enough ambition for their career and that it could have negative consequences on their career success,” the authors say. “The results suggest that, in general, it is worth to actively include nonwork aspects like family or personal interests in career planning.”

Bringing home to work

Now, whilst it may seem a bit much for HR to start worrying about our personal lives, a study conducted a few years ago suggests it may be something they should think about.  It explored the impact home life had on the behavior of a number of managers.

Not only does the home life affect the behavior of the boss themselves, but the boss’s behavior rapidly spreads throughout the rest of the office too.

The rationale behind the study is that we have a finite amount of mental energy that we can devote to the various challenges we face each day.  Therefore, a stressful home life can drain those resources, leaving us with little left for work, whilst of course, the opposite is also true.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?  The researchers proposed therefore that bosses who were stressed out at home were likely to be drained and exhausted at work, offering little in the way of help and support to their team along the way.

All of which supports the earlier finding as I’m sure when we perform better at work, we’re happier and more effective.


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