The Role of Work-Life Balance
In today's fast pace competitive society, there is a significant underlying issue in every industry across all staffing levels which surround the issues of work life integration. This paper focuses primarily on how today’s top law firms can create a company culture that is conducive to a more work-life balanced approach. It is not uncommon for associates in today’s top law firms to feel intense pressure to work upwards of 60 hours per week in order to stay competitive in the “rat race”. As junior lawyers compete against each other to eventually obtain the status of partner within the firm, lawyers face conflicting pressures between ...view middle of the document...
No longer can the employee reach for his coat at 5 o’clock, walk out the large glass revolving door, and retreat home to hide from the pressure at work. Professionals find themselves on the job 24/7 and increasingly much choose between spending time working or with their families. The stress eventually spills over into the home life and can result in employee burnout and reduced motivation. It is not just a worker issue, it affects employers because people are so over-stretched that they are not able to perform at their best. Lowered motivation often leads to lowered work input and low work input can lead to increased frustration and more stress. It is a vicious cycle that can have an adverse effect on performance and efficiency of the organization.
During the 1960s and 1970s, employers considered work-life mainly an issue for working mothers who struggled with the demands of their jobs and raising children. During this period, the United States passed several pieces of legislation to help alleviate the undue stress mothers face before and after childbirth. One piece of legislation, The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, prohibits an employer from refusing to hire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy or singling out pregnancy-related conditions to determine an employee's ability to work. Throughout the 1980’s organizations began to change their workplace policy procedures and benefits that included maternity leave, employee assistance programs, flextime, home-based work, and child-care referral. During the 1990’s men also began voicing work-life concerns. Work-life was starting to be seen not only as an issue that affected women, but also families, organizations, and cultures. (Bird, p3) A new perception of the way employees viewed work began to sweep across America. Baby boomers to new college grads began making job choices based on their own lifestyle values and corporations began to adopt family friendly policies.
The honeymoon however didn’t last long, and many of the policies put in place in the 1980’s failed to have any significant impact on employees’ work-life balance. Most companies now still view work and personal life as competing priorities in a zero-sum game, in which a gain in one area means a loss in another. Many executives still have the mind-set that every time an employee’s personal interests “win”, it is at the expense of the company profits. When companies deal with work-life problems, “they consign the issues to the human resources department, where the problems are often dealt with piecemeal, through programs such as flextime and paternity leave. Such programs, however, rarely help more than a few employees strike a meaningful, sustainable balance between work and personal life because they do not permeate a company’s culture or fundamentally change managers’ behavior” (Friedman, p3).
I have close college friend severely struggling with an imbalance in work life issues within...