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The need to find harmony between our personal and professional lives is essential.

Work-life balance is a method we can use to achieve some kind of normality whereby we aren’t always working. The reason work-life balance has become such a heavily discussed topic lately is because finding balance is not an easy task.

The most important point is knowing where to start. We’re walking around with portable offices in our pockets, our emails and Slack notifications come home with us and always being expected to respond makes it increasingly hard to switch off.

The term ‘work-life balance’ was first used in the United Kingdom during the 1970s and then became popular in the United States during the later part of the 1980s.

There has been a revival of the term in recent years, as jobs become progressively humane, regulated working hours make it impossible to work around the clock. If you’re not paid for overtime, don’t work overtime.

This situation, coupled with better education and increased professional awareness, means that people have started to appreciate the time they spend with themselves, with friends and family far more than ever before, hence the interest in work-life balance. Paying more attention to non-financial factors, such as the ability to combine private and professional lives has meant that most companies now provide some additional benefits to their employees.

Taking a holistic approach to life, without dividing it into separate work and home spheres, is necessary to achieve a satisfactory balance. It provides a sense of unity of what we do overall, this compatibility guarantees a sense of inner peace and of living in harmony with ourselves and others.

Employers also see the benefits of encouraging work-life balance. By being willing enough to make employees feel as though they are part of something more than just a company. They try to create home-like conditions so that employees feel comfortable and are able to pursue their hobbies in the workplace, for example by providing a punchbag for boxing, subsidised gym memberships or on site yoga classes etc. The competitiveness of companies depends largely on human resources. Employers often try to accommodate the needs of employees and introduce flexible forms of work organization, know as flexitime.

Employees shouldn’t be only living to work (even if they truly love their job) and slowly but surely more companies realize this. The ability to rest, for example, is an ideal means of maintaining both your mental and physical health, being sound of mind usually means being sound of body. However, even something as simple as resting might be easier said than done. 

Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living.

The nine to five workday is outdated, it exists because during the 1800s American labour unions implemented this and for some bizarre reason, so did everyone else. It is an incredibly unnatural way of working, especially when you consider that all of the careers which existed in the 1800s, didn’t involve any of the technology we have now and a lot of the jobs we have now, simply didn’t exist.

In times of economic uncertainty, we worry more about losing our jobs than reconciling our private lives. In companies where remote work is possible, most employees work whilst ill for fear of being fired. Phrases like “I know you’re at home but could you just check [X]?” or “I know you’re ill but would it be possible for you to update [X]?” are a sure fire way to get an employee to burnout. If you wouldn’t like it asked of you, never ask it of someone else. 

However, this does not apply to all countries and all jobs. There are countries where these issues are regulated by law, and to an even greater extent, by their culture and customs. There are countries where the balance between work and privacy is recognized not only as a manifestation of social responsibility, but above all as a competitive advantage and a condition of employee efficiency.

The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) published the Better Life Index, where the subindex of work-life balance is considered an important part of leading a good life.

The OECD calculates it on the basis of: the amount of free time, the employment of women with children aged 6–14 and the number of employees working more than 50 hours per week among other factors.

According to the ranking, of the 36 surveyed countries, the least free time was available to working mothers in Turkey. This is likely because they have the most problems finding employment at all, so they have to work overtime. The Dutch and Swedes placed at the top of the ranking, with almost one hundred percent of the population working regularly for more than 50 hours a week. Poland, which was placed right behind the US and just before Iceland in 28th place, is definitely closer to the worst countries for work-life balance. 

1. Denmark

Overtime workers: 2.1%

Leisure time: 16.1 hours daily

A short week of work and a lot of free time for family and friends have secured first place for the homeland of Hans Christian Andersen. Only 2% of full-time employees feel as though they spend too many hours at work. Denmark also offers the largest support for families and parents with young children,  public expenditure on family benefits amounts to 4% of the country’s GDP.

2. Spain

Overtime workers: 5.9%

Leisure time: 16.1 hours daily

Spaniards, like the Danes, spend a lot of time pursuing their interests and with their families, but most of them work until quite late. Estimates indicate that Spanish workers spend 67% of the day on non-work related activities. Compared to the winners of the ranking, however, there is a considerable gender disparity in employment (to the disadvantage of women).

3. Belgium

Overtime workers: 4.4%

Leisure time: 15.7 hours daily

Belgium placed fifth in flexible employment programs and gave employees the opportunity to devote most of their time to their families and friends , only 5% of Belgians spend the majority of their day at the office.

4. Netherlands

Overtime workers: 0.6%

Leisure time: 15.44 hrs. daily

Only 0.6% of employees work until late in this small country located on the coast of the North Sea. Interestingly, this does not always translate into longer rest, as the Dutch spend an average of 64% of the day on private and family matters. Just as in Denmark, a generous social security system helps to ensure gender equality in the labour market.

5. Norway

Overtime workers: 3.1%

Leisure time: 15.6 hours daily

Next in the ranking is Denmark’s Scandinavian cousin whose residents are able to spend 64% of the day with their families, only 3% of the country’s workers spend most of their day at the office.

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