Despite being in vogue, work-life balance has been regarded as a minor issue. It is true that it’s easy to find reflections and articles in the media, as well as a genuine interest on the part of many governments and organizations; nevertheless, work-life balance is still underrated. Few resources are allocated, it’s often a tomorrow issue, and it’s too easily linked to a lower degree of commitment towards the organization, to family and to female condition.

Far from that, work-life balance means having autonomy to manage our roles in order to fully develop ourselves. This appeals to everybody, and the difference between achieving it or not can lead either to a beautiful constellation of benefits or a long list of personal, social and organizational issues. It may be a light subject, but its implications are hard.

Lack of work-life balance is a social issue

Wright Mills distinguished between individual and social issues. He suggested that when there’s only one unemployed person in a country, it’s an individual issue; when there are more than three million people, it becomes social. When there’s only one obese child, it’s individual; when a third of children suffer from obesity, it becomes social. When there’s only one individual lacking work-life balance, it’s individual; if half of the population has the same problem, that’s social.

In order to solve said problem, it’s essential that every social agent does everything in their power to both minimize difficulties and lead to that constellation of personal, social and organizational benefits. This article will delve into the benefits of work-life balance at a personal level.

Work-life balance seen as a conflict

The amount of academic literature about work-life balance has risen exponentially in the last five decades, mainly after the massive incorporation of women into the (remunerated) labour market and the need to rethink the way we organize ourselves. From that moment on, a great number of books[1] [2] [3], academic articles, associations and conferences, and specialized magazines have proliferated.

As indicated in our article Rethinking the Ideal worker, the notion of work-life balance was built upon negatives, instead of positives. It was Greenhaus and Beutell who coined the concept[4] in 1985, and defined it as a conflict between roles where work and family demands are somehow incompatible. According to the authors, said conflict between work and family can take three different forms: based on time, based on tension, or based on behaviour.

Conflict based on time occurs when devoting excessive time to a role implies not being able to dedicate necessary time to another.

Conflict based on tension implies that the tension generated within a role won’t allow to meet the demands of another. Being caught up in a work or family-related concern, for instance, doesn’t allow for concentrating on the rest of responsibilities outside those environments, even if time is available.

Conflict based on behaviour happens when behavioural expectations in both roles are opposite. For example, having to be cold-blooded, strict and competitive at the workplace, and warm, emotional and generous at home.

Regardless its form, suffering a conflict between work and family comes with a price.



Personal benefits derived from a good work-life balance

The attempt at achieving work-life balance has its implications at all levels:

At work level, recent studies indicate that a lack of balance is closely related to having the intention of quitting the job[5],  a higher level of absenteeism[6], less commitment to the organization and individual productivity[7] [8], and a lower degree of employee satisfaction[9], ultimately.

At family level, the lack of balance is linked to a lower degree of both family[10]and parent satisfaction[11], and issues in life as a couple[12].

– Finally, empirical studies have demonstrated that the conflict between work and family can have serious health consequences on those dealing with it, like eating disorders[13], addiction problems[14], anguish[15]and depression[16]. Those are big words.

As we mentioned before, researches now explore not only the consequences of lacking a work-life balance, but also the personal benefits of having a good leverage among all the roles. Recent evidence proves how enjoying a work-life balance is related to better health and greater family satisfaction; to a higher level of satisfaction and commitment towards the organization as well, leading to enhanced productivity.

A case in point is the Boston Consulting Group, where they conducted an interesting study supervised by professor Leslie Perlow. The premise of said study was to grant consultants a free afternoon every week. This minor measure resulted on an increase in both consultant and customer satisfaction, and added value on the part of consultants perceived by customers themselves.

This is just a snapshot. The idea is that all these evidences prove to be increasingly useful in order to promote work-life balance —at political, organizational and individual levels— to the major leagues.


[1] Allen, T. D., & de Tormes Eby, L. T. (Eds.). (2016). The Oxford Handbook of Work and Family. Oxford University Press.

[2] Grzywacz, J. G., & Demerouti, E. (2013). New Frontiers in Work and Family Research. Psychology Press.

[3] Korabik, K., Lero, D. S., & Whitehead, D. L. (Eds.). (2011). Handbook of Work-Family Integration: Research, Theory, and Best Practices. Academic Press.

[4] Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review10(1), 76-88.

[5] Nohe, Christoph, & Sonntag, K. (2014). Work–family conflict, social support, and turnover intentions: A longitudinal study. Journal of Vocational Behavior85(1), 1–12

[6] Boyar, S. L., Maertz, C. P., & Pearson, A. W. (2005). The effects of work–family conflict and family–work conflict on nonattendance behaviors. Journal of Business Research58(7), 919–925.

[7] Li, C., Lu, J., & Zhang, Y. (2013). Cross-domain effects of work-family conflict on organizational commitment and performance. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal41(10), 1641–1653.

[8] Nohe, C., Michel, A., & Sonntag, K. (2014). Family–work conflict and job performance: A diary study of boundary conditions and mechanisms. Journal of Organizational Behavior35(3), 339–357.

[9] Chen, I. H., Brown, R., Bowers, B. J., & Chang, W. Y. (2015). Work-to-family conflict as a mediator of the relationship between job satisfaction and turnover intention. Journal of Advanced Nursing71(10), 2350–2363.

[10] Bagger, J., & Li, A. (2012). Being important matters: The impact of work and family centralities on the family-to-work conflict–satisfaction relationship. Human Relations65(4), 473–500.

[11] Burke, R. J., Koyuncu, M., & Fiksenb, L. (2013). Antecedents and consequences of work-family conflict and family-work conflict among frontline employees in Turkish hotels. IUP Journal of Management Research12(4), 39–55.

[12] Minnotte, K. L., Minnotte, M. C., & Bonstrom, J. (2015). Work–Family Conflicts and Marital Satisfaction Among US Workers: Does Stress Amplification Matter? Journal of Family and Economic Issues36(1), 21–33.

[13] Allen, T. D., & Armstrong, J. (2006). Further examination of the link between work-family conflict and physical health: The role of health-related behaviors. American Behavioral Scientist49(9), 1204-1221.

[14] Wolff, J. M., Rospenda, K. M., Richman, J. A., Liu, L., & Milner, L. A. (2013). Work-Family Conflict and Alcohol Use: Examination of a moderated mediation model. Journal of Addictive Diseases32(1), 85–98.

[15] Cooklin, A. R., Westrupp, E. M., Strazdins, L., Giallo, R., Martin, A., & Nicholson, J. M. (2015). Mothers’ work-family conflict and enrichment: Associations with parenting quality and couple relationship. Child: Care, Health and Development41(2), 266–277.

[16] Fujimoto, T., Shinohara, S. K., & Oohira, T. (2014). Work–Family Conflict and Depression for Employed Husbands and Wives in Japan: Moderating Roles of Self and Spousal Role Involvement. In J. Higgins McCormick & S. Lee Blair (Eds.), Family Relationships and Familial Responses to Health Issues (pp. 135–162). Emerald Group Publishing Limited.