The newly launched PPS Graduate Professional Index has revealed that 43% of the respondents rated their work-life balance to be average, with 14% rating it as poor. More than 3000 graduate professionals responded to the survey which included professionals within the accountancy, legal, dentistry, medical, engineering and pharmaceutical sectors.
According to Dr Dominique Stott, Executive: Medical Standards and Services at PPS, the possible reason why the majority of respondents rate their work-life balance as average or poor could be due to the increasing number of professionals feeling overwhelmed by their work responsibilities, often at the expense of quality time spent outside work.
“Many professionals could be having contributory feelings of guilt that they are not spending enough time with their families. While at the same time, some professionals may experience anxiety that their work performance may suffer if they take time away, or they are scared of losing their job should they appear to not be able to cope with their workload.”
Dr Stott explains that an unbalanced work-life situation could have serious physical and mental effects for professionals. “Physical side effects include high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and sometimes due to an increase in alcohol intake or smoking of cigarettes. Work performance may also be adversely affected by the ongoing overload of stress and can start to cause insomnia, anxiety and mood disorders in some people.”
Before someone reaches this stage, Dr Stott advises that the employee should address this with either their employer or consult a counsellor for advice in the event that they are self employed. “There are numerous self-help techniques that individuals can implement in their lives in an effort to cope with the challenges of work and personal life, but if the situation has gone beyond this stage, a counsellor may assist in helping to set the boundaries. By setting consistent boundaries and identifying areas where stress is impacting work performance and other areas of life, this perception of work-life misalignment can be changed to a healthier balance.”
“Every person’s perception of their balance between work and personal duties will differ. People who get a great deal of personal satisfaction from their job will naturally not begrudge long work hours as opposed to someone who feels unfulfilled at work,” she adds.
“Individuals within professional occupations might experience increased pressure to perform due to two reasons: a large proportion of the day is spent working in order to generate the expected income which professional people feel they must earn; or that the normal working hours spent are simply too stressful to be fulfilling,” she says.
The impact of stress will also differs between employed and self-employed people. “A self-employed person might not realise that it is vital to monitor their work-life balance. These people tend to take fewer holidays or spend less time out of the office partaking in hobbies, exercising or socialising. This may eventually lead to short term gains in income but long term losses in mental and physical health,” explains Dr Stott.
She advised that when people feel severely under pressure it is important that they alleviate the stress by addressing the root of the cause which may be too little ‘down time’. Regular exercise is very helpful to relieve stress, but the drive to commit to a training programme should not create even more pressure for the person. “For some people, just by taking a holiday or a short break they are able to gain perspective and see that this ‘down time’ is as important as working and actually helps to make working time more effective.
“Alternative options include using a counsellor or psychologist to either help manage the cause of the stress overload or to make major decisions about one’s future career in that particular field of profession. It is however to ensure that any time booked off from work due to stress does not necessarily achieve lasting benefits. Addressing the root cause assisted through counselling is likely to have more far-reaching benefits thank sick leave,” says Dr Stott.
“In today’s society people are often pressured by family members and counterparts to live better, work harder and to earn more money, but this type of stress usually has a negative long-term impact on people’s health. All people should put their own well-being first by ensuring their mental and physical health to strike a good work-life balance,” she concludes.