The Work-Life Balance Dilemma

The work-life balance has been at the forefront of many employers and employees alike for a good number of years as the scales have perceived to have been tilted too far in favour of the employer and business needs. It is also perceived that actually striking a proper balance from both perspectives cannot become a reality particularly easy without a change of mind-set from the business perspective. However, understanding the reasons behind the issues is quite simple to grasp.

Approximately 30 years ago, the working environment in developed countries such as the United states and United Kingdom saw quite a radical change in the lifestyles of individuals and business alike as entrepreneurialism was encouraged by the governments of the day, especially in the United Kingdom, where government activities such as utility services and rail networks also entered in to private ownership for the first time in many decades. It was a change that reduced government spending on wasted resources that saw enormous inefficiencies and placed the roles in to the hands of a new breed of entrepreneur.

What evolved from this change soon became the normal across the world, both the good aspects and the bad, the bad being the work-life balance seeing an equally radical in change. Businesses need to operate as efficiently as possible to compete and maximise profits, and this is the main driver behind the imbalanced that has been created. One of the reasons behind privatisation was to lower business costs, while increasing productivity and reducing the cost to consumers. The average business model, regardless of its location in the world, now operates to a very similar level, which places pressures on the business from top to bottom, throughout the organisation. Directors, Chief Executives and senior management are responsible for ensuring maximum productivity and profits, while the workforce and junior management are responsible for production as close to 100% as possible, in many cases with the possibility of redundancy or employment termination if performance criteria is not realised.

What also evolved was the increase in living standards, and as wages increased, so did the cost of living, including housing, both private ownership and rented accommodation. In turn, the previous family structure of the man going to work while the woman raised the children at home became consigned to history. Job creation opened opportunities for women in the workplace and many homes now have two full-time working adults making the contribution to the household, pushing living standards even higher, to the point where losing one of the incomes could spell disaster for the household. I am not suggesting that employers have exploited this situation but some businesses could be accused of exactly that, as they heap pressure on their employees to produce more, even if this means working longer hours for no additional income. It is not just the lowly employees that experience this action though. Middle and junior management are all under similar pressures to deliver, as per the wish of company shareholders.

The word that is often used to describe such business models is Capitalism, a system where the rich get richer and the poorer (normally employees) either get poorer or never really see any significant change to their life in terms of financial reward. This has brought about a number of scenarios in the workplace.

• Employees that have become willing to work long hours to earn additional income to either support the family or have funds for a holiday or special occasion.
• Two parent families working, but not always working the same hours. It is quite common for one parent to be working during the day while the other in the evening or through the night – just to pay the household bills.
• Employees that are willing to travel away from their town of city to find employment that meets the financial rewards they seek. However, this often entails staying away from the family home during the week or long commuting from the work place to home, consuming many hours every week and further tipping the work-life scales.
• Employees that feel obliged, or under pressure to work away on behalf of a business.

The knock on effect from each of these scenarios is that employees face spending more time with work related issues than they do with individual activities, hobbies or family life. In the cases of family life, there is little doubt that this work/life imbalance has contributed to a steep rise in divorce rates across the world, and for want of a better term, this imbalance is becoming somewhat of a disease in society. Another effect that is largely brought on by family pressures and/or marital breakdowns is in an individual’s health. Sustained levels of stress are not conducive to optimal performance in the workplace and the worst scenario is dealing with employees that are clinically depressed due to the high stress levels.

So far, much of what has been covered has been related to Europe but be aware that the same work/life imbalance also exists in India, and as the country pushes forward in to the global marketplace, the current trend of working hours dominating many lifestyles, is in all likelihood going to continue and probably gather pace until the same “disease” grips the country, unless India businesses and business leaders learn from the mistakes made in the west.

What is the solution to the work/life balance issue?
In the west, it would appear that the issue is not likely to fade away very quickly as most business models have little tolerance to steer in another direction. However, young Indians, looking to undertake management roles need to be aware of the effects of a work/life balance if the scales are tipped too far in either direction. Not only do they need to be aware, they will need to address the issue in their own working environment, to create an acceptable balance for all concerned.

The balance between the professional workplace and a content employee in a stable home environment cannot be stressed too highly, the balance is critical to maximise performance levels throughout an organisation, which in turn will reap the long term benefits.

The Triad of Knowledge, Skills & Attitude for achieving Success

A successful business, irrespective of the section in which it operates, and its incorporated structure is highly dependent on three key elements within each and every employee, namely knowledge, skills and attitude, to achieve a desirable level of short, medium and long term success. The relationship between these three elements, or rather personal qualities in an individual, is fundamental for career advancement and organisation leaders to develop a strong work ethic and sound business. We are going to take a look at each of these three elements individually to identify the attributes that form part of the triad of knowledge, skills and attitude for achieving Success.

Knowledge
The years of learning at school, college and university provide the foundation for a life in the working environment with a focus of teaching quite basic problem solving and communication skills, however these skills are do not typically run in parallel with modern business requirements, but then that is not the function of the national curriculum, the learning years provide the building blocks for individuals to follow up in their personal career development. The key difference in learning skills solely through information is it essentially based on a “perfect world” but business does not operate in the same parameters, there are many variants that make this impossible. It is of course common knowledge that employers prefer to offer opportunities to individuals that are more prepared and equipped to fulfil a specify role and potential career advancement. A business or organisation makes quite a significant investment in career development so in the recruiting process, a candidate with greater knowledge and practical skills will probably signify less investment and a “win-win” situation for the business.

To acquire the appropriate knowledge prior to work placement can only be gained through certification courses that specialise in providing suitable experience based knowledge. Skills that are attractive to employees, where an individual can undertake a working role from the minute they walk through the door, without any initial basic formal training.

Skills
With the exception of the aforementioned basic problem solving and communication skills, the formal, national education system does not really prepare an individual for the workplace other than at a fairly basic level, and although this is the typical starting point for most new employees there is a significant drawback. On entering the working environment without previous knowledge and certain skills, career development and career advancement can still be achieved but normally at a much slower pace. This creates a problem for both businesses in the current climate and employees. As India pushes further in to the world’s service industry marketplace, it has become evident that a severe shortage of suitable management skills that impacts the present and long term future of Indian based business in a global market. As with knowledge, it is a distinct advantage to present the essential or desired skills to an employer during the interview selection process but without previous work experience this is obviously not so easily achieved, though not impossible either.

If you have the time to undertake a certification program that will provide the opportunity to learn the required practical skills in addition to the theory, then this is time well invested as again you will become a more viable candidate for selection. This “hands on” form of education is invaluable to both the individual and employer, and the benefits for both parties are quite obvious with time and investment saved on the employer’s part, as the individual is already at a level whereby they can serve a useful function without any immediate training.

Attitude
The attitude of an individual is arguably the most important aspect of the triad of knowledge, skills and attitude for achieving success, for without the right mental approach and attitude the skills and knowledge aspects that have been acquired are diminished and devalued. Irrespective of the organisation, employers want their staff and team members to have and display a positive attitude in the day to day functioning of the business, anything else is considered to be detrimental to the business as a negative attitude can potentially spread among the peer group.

Attitude in the workplace typically comes from either self-motivation or the motivational skills from the organisations management team. The managers will typically be well motivated, had they not been sufficiently motivated they would not have made any progress in their career development or career advancement. So in order for a new employee to make any progress in their career development or career advancement, then obviously the right motivation has to exist, and that only comes about from adopting or having the right attitude instilled.

The major difference with the attitude aspect of the triad is that it cannot be taught. An individual can be encouraged, motivated or guided in to adopting a positive state of mind but it is very much down to the individual to self-motivate toward adopting a positive outlook and attitude. One of the elements in good certification courses or certification program is the right motivation skills to develop an individual’s attitude toward the course with a carefully structured format, one that provides interest in addition to information. The program is designed so that an individual can complete the course with the correct knowledge, skills and attitude for achieving success in the workplace, further enhanced by obtaining suitable placements on completion.

In conclusion
The relationship between knowledge, skills and attitude for achieving success is quite obvious and to omit any one of these three key elements will ensure a reduced capacity for career development or career advancement. To get ahead in the initial period of employment, undertaking certification programs or certification courses will enhance your opportunities while providing you with the three key elements to succeed in your future career. You will learn the skills that employers want, obtain the knowledge you will need to develop your skills and develop a “can do” outlook toward the role you are performing and maintaining a professional attitude.