Is Work-Life Balance a Moot Point If You're Happy at Work?

By Lauren Le Vine, REDBOOK.

European workplaces, with their paid maternity leave, month-long summer vacations, and 35-hour work weeks, have always held a sort of "grass is much greener" allure to Americans. You'd think those laissez faire companies on the Continent would have the most committed employees in the world, but a new Gallup Survey shows that they don't. In fact, it's the U.S. that has the most engaged employees, with 30 percent of Americans saying they feel "emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations every day."

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Although we have the most engaged workforce in the world (the international average hovers around 13 percent), 72 percent of Americans in a Glassdoor Survey rated having time off as one of the key components to their happiness at work. The thing is: We're not taking these allotted days off, we just seem to like knowing that they're there.

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These findings suggest that work-life balance might actually be a state of mind, not the desire for a finite starting and stopping point every day, plus loads of time off. In Europe, employees with vacation days galore feel less engaged with the employers giving them all that time off. In the United States, employers who focus on providing creatively fulfilling and meaningful occupations create a reciprocal effect wherein employees don't prioritize getting time off the clock as much as they think they do.

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"Although some supervisors might expect employees to compartmentalize their work lives and their personal lives, great managers know that the whole person comes to work and that each employee's well-being influences individual and organizational performance," Gallup reports.

This ties into the work-life blend theory that job satisfaction shouldn't hinge on being two different, compartmentalized people when you're on the clock versus not, but rather pursuing a personally meaningful endeavor. Work-life balance will never be an entirely moot point, but these findings suggest ways to reframe the idea of "work" in a way that's beneficial to both employers and employees.

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