On the tightrope: Are we getting better at maintaining a work-life balance?

Everyone talks about work-life balance and a new piece of research reported in HR magazine suggests we may just be getting better at achieving it. A survey of 16,000 professionals from more than 80 countries has shown encourging results.

The Regus Work-Life Balance Index calibrates a number of factors, such as work enjoyment, sense of achievement, additional duties, working hours, commute length and actual time spent away from personal life, to measure people’s actual working behaviours as well as their perceptions,

And the 16,000-person survey has registered an encouraging 24 per cent rise between 2010 and 2012. In 2012 some 61 per cent of businesspeople globally feel their work-life balance has improved, a figure representing a positive majority, but also revealing there is still room for improvement.

Emerging economies, such as Mexico, Brazil, China and India, top the chart for improving balance, suggesting that development in these countries is growing hand-in-hand with worker well-being.

Dr Almuth McDowall, a Chartered Psychlogist and co-chair of the Division of Occupational Psychology working group on work-life balance, says:

“Regus’s findings show that work-life balance seems to be improving all over the globe, and flexible working is provided to attract and engage the best people.

“But we need to look behind these statistics. Psychological research shows that flexible working needs to be implemented carefully and with lots of consultation. We also can’t assume that families where both parents work have better balance, one of the indicators used in the study. Psychological research often shows the opposite, where working parents struggle more.

“Overall, heartening news, but to be taken with a pinch of salt.”