The Malta Independent 4 December 2021, Saturday

Life is a balancing act

Tuesday, 6 July 2021, 07:41 Last update: about 6 months ago

Olga Formosa

The challenge of juggling a healthy balance between our professional and personal responsibilities is increasingly becoming a predominant issue in determining the happiness and satisfaction we derive from our everyday lives. The Faculty for Social Wellbeing at the University of Malta looks into the factors at play when it comes to addressing our roles within our community.

Conflict between work and family commitments can leave an impact on the quality of our personal life as well as our career attainments. As we climb the ladder of our professional aspirations while seeking to develop relationships and families, the demands and commitments that these bring along mushroom, making it all the harder to strike a balance that allows us to feel fulfilled within these multiple roles. The choices we make along the way and where and how we dedicate our energy may enhance or limit our professional opportunities, or it can translate into the trading-off of personal values within our family responsibilities.

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With technology at the backbone of our society and the world at reach in our pockets, few are those not checking emails at all hours, taking business calls at the dinner table, or working at their laptop over the weekends. Achieving a healthy balance within our modern-life, ambition-driven, zen-seeking personas therefore reflects on all aspects of life. And reaching this balance is an essential component not only for employees, but for their employers too. Employees with a positive work-life balance, in fact, perform better in the workplace. Promoting a wholesome balance is therefore beneficial and essential to individuals and companies alike.

As COVID-19 closed its grip on the world, many experienced the shifting of work and home lives moving under the same roof. The boundaries of workplaces extended beyond their physical walls and now largely include work stations at previously-private spaces. Facilitated by countless digital tools, for some, resuscitating and maintaining professional responsibilities amid phases of lockdowns and restricted movement has been possible to different degrees. However, as technology allowed us to reinvent and continue with our professional duties within the new work-from-home environments, has it also created even greater expectations of constant accessibility, new demands to juggle responsibilities and especially difficult challenges when it comes to disconnecting? With family structures within society becoming increasingly diverse, can we handle these demands without compromising our personal values and professional aspirations?

There is no doubt workers cannot perform well without accommodation for their personal responsibilities. Forward-thinking businesses must look into investing in their people and nurturing workplace cultures that promote healthy work-life practices, seeking a balance between employee wellbeing and profits or results, if they are to survive the long haul. Things like applauding the faster result over the better one, or longer hours over more productive ones might need to be re-examined. When employees maintain a healthy work-life balance, productivity and performance improve, better staff retention is achieved, employee absences reduce and overall organisational knowledge can be better retained, which can be an invaluable asset, particularly during difficult economic times.

Employees too need to look into establishing practices that can make their home and work demands sustainable. The onus of discipline and resilience within our responsibilities ultimately lies with the choices we make and how we prioritise our duties. Establishing clear boundaries between work and personal life, for instance, can promote a balance of responsibilities where our different roles can co-exist. Adopting a combination of efficiency, time-management and creativity, can support a better balance to one’s work-life. Unplugging from work, especially from screens is also essential. Research shows that stepping away from our devices can improve sleeping patterns and mental health, which in turn can enhance productivity and performance. Dedicating time to self-care, be it a hobby, meditation or exercise can also make a difference. Exercise reduces stress and improves mental and physical health. Studies have also shown it can also considerably improve time-management and productivity, boosting not only our personal development but also our professional one. Ultimately, spending quality time with ourselves and our loved ones can of course improve our wellbeing as we face our professional uphill demands.

Against a backdrop of a changing world of work, as the lines between careers and personal lives become blurred and ever more intertwined, understanding the importance of work-life balance has become necessary and more pertinent than ever. At this crossroad, businesses and employees alike have the opportunity to take a birds-eye view of things and consider what changes can create improvements for employees and the company personality they bring along. The Faculty for Social Wellbeing, within its academic and research agenda, looks into the psychology of occupations and wellbeing and works to contribute towards developments in these areas. We are our own best advocates when it comes to creating accommodations for desirable work-family interfaces. In this pursuit, balance is key.

Olga Formosa is Research Support Officer, Faculty for Social Wellbeing

For more information about our courses please contact us on [email protected]

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