Finding the Balance Between Work and Life

Experts say that workers are not being flexible enough in the workplace.

June 28, 2007 — -- After long days in workplaces that are becoming increasingly demanding, many Americans are having a hard time succeeding at their second jobs: their personal lives.

"We are a society without a lot of time," Dr. Randall Hansen, founder of Quintessential Careers, told via e-mail, which is why working Americans are struggling to find a balance between keeping up at the office and meeting the responsibilities of caring for children and other relatives.

According to Hansen, "With more and more demands from employers [to] workers to complete as many or more tasks with fewer people, and with growing demands not only from children but also potentially aging parents, people are feeling squeezed for time."

Google product manager Jonathan Rochelle said that busy American parents are required to do "different and stronger work." In other words, working Americans are confronted with work obligations that make it nearly impossible to have any life outside of the office.

"Many parents' days don't end after they leave work," said Kathleen E. Christensen, director of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation of the average American's personal roles, including parenting, coaching or volunteering. For many working parents, the stress that often accompanies long work days is heightened by concerns about their children's educational performance and experience, a worry that Christensen calls "parental after-school stress."

In order to better balance home and work life, some working Americans are taking steps toward easing such challenges. "Increasingly, workers are attempting torearrange their lives to cut out long commutes or negotiating telecommuting arrangements," said clinical psychologist, Dr. Lynn Friedman.

Hansen says telecommuting -- using online applications that integrate BlackBerries, cell phones or pagers -- is "the biggest and best technological service" for workers with shared issues. Google has been a major provider of online applications that allow workers to share information on documents, spreadsheets and a calendar on which frenzied employees can virtually -- and simply -- organize their lives. "The information that you want on there, you want to share," said Rochelle. "If I don't share my information, it's useless."

Perhaps the most important thing companies can offer to keep employees from jumping ship is flexibility. "[Couples] are turning to their employers and seeking assistance in the form of flexible working conditions," said Hansen. "The biggest issue is how much employers are willing to work with their employees to both keep them and keep them happy. Folks who have a work-life imbalance are not often very happy due to the stress levels and will often leave their jobs if a solution cannot be found. Thus, the best employers know these things and work to find solutions."

For Christensen, the solution is clear for employers. "The rules of the workplace are written in sand, not stone."