Achieving Work-Life Balance as a Nigerian: Myth or Possibility?

Achieving Work-Life Balance as a Nigerian: Myth or Possibility?

Work-life balance – a term that is often thrown around by employees at the end of a long week; human resource managers at quarterly management meetings; and sustainability experts in preaching the need to manage the expectations of internal stakeholders. But what really is work-life balance? Per Susan M. Heathfield, Human Resource Expert, Writer and Management Consultant, “Work-life balance is a concept that supports the efforts of employees to split their time and energy between work and the other important aspects of their lives. Work-life balance is a daily effort to make time for family, friends, community participation, spirituality, personal growth, self-care, and other personal activities, in addition to the demands of the workplace.”

She goes further to say, “Work-life balance is assisted by employers who institute policies, procedures, actions, and expectations that enable employees to easily pursue more balanced lives. The pursuit of work-life balance reduces the stress employees experience. When they spend most their days on work-related activities and feel as if they are neglecting the other important components of their lives, stress, and unhappiness result.”

Let’s also consider other proven facts. Per Burke (2006) Research Companion to Working Time and Work Addiction, long hours of work lead to: lower productivity; increased workplace injuries and errors; increased levels of ill health; and work-family conflict. Research also suggests that work-family conflicts then have negative impacts on job satisfaction, organisational commitment, turnover intentions, and stress. (Poelmans & Sahibzada, 2004). On the flip side, good organisational work-life policies lead reduction in absenteeism, lateness, turnover, work-family conflict, stress and increase job satisfaction, productivity, morale, and organizational commitment (Poelmans & Sahibzada, 2004).

There is also local research on the topic thanks to the Lagos Business School, amongst others. In 2013, it produced research that showed that the more unfriendly the organisational work-life balance culture, the lower the organisational commitment tends to be; the more the employees think of changing jobs; and the lower the employees’ trust in Management.

Based on the above insight, we see not only the importance of achieving a healthy balance in one’s professional and personal life, but the role that employers of labour are expected to play in supporting employees. It is, therefore, interesting to note that this is a topic that we are yet to grasp in corporate Nigeria, beyond playing lip service. In this article, we lay down some facts about the work-life balance – or the lack thereof – in Nigeria; especially Lagos.

Per research carried out by Epie Chantal in 2011, below are the various results she received from her research:

Hours worked

In what should be a 40-hour week, the mean working hours of employees in a week is 53.5 hours, with 14% working normal hours, and 86% working at least 48 hours in a week. Of this 86%, 44% work in the banking/finance/ insurance sector; 10% in manufacturing; while the rest are in a wide range of sectors: telecom, shipping, education, services, ICT, etc.

Furthermore, for those working at least 48 hours in a week, 38% had a high score in all four measures of time-based work-life conflict; and 9% for stress-based conflict. 74% of respondents habitually feel physically drained, while 43% are emotionally drained by the time they return home. Of all respondents, only 29% felt habitually in control of their life. Others felt out of control sometimes (29%), often (38%) or even most of the time (4%). We have to admit: the possible impact is worrisome.

Reasons for working long hours

25% of respondents indicated that they work long hours because they enjoy their work – but it is the main reason for only 4% – while 44% choose to do so because they feel obliged to work long hours.

Commuting time and stress

There are other factors that impact directly on work-life balance that are not directly because of work, such as commute time. For 47%, they spend 3 to 6 hours getting to and from work on a typical day, with only 7% spending less than an hour. For 35%, commuting adds greatly to the stress of the day, while 42% indicated slight impact.

Interesting facts, aren’t they? What’s more, these statistics were recorded in 2011, how much more now that the demands of the inflation, unemployment and underemployment are biting hard across all cadres of the society. Fortunately, corporates have recognised the need to address these issues – even though action seems to be moving somewhat slowly. We have, however, scoured global solutions and propose the following in supporting employees to live healthy lives, and ensure they are at their best if they will give you the best:

For the employer

  • Maintain Structural Consistency
  • Offer Community Engagement Opportunities
  • Create a Designated “Quiet Space”
  • Allow Schedule Flexibility
  • Engage in Team-Building Exercises
  • Encourage Short Breaks Throughout the Day
  • Allow Unpaid Time Off for Life Events
  • Ask Employees for Guidance
  • Encourage employee training, workshops, and education

For the employee

  • Maximise meeting times
  • Know when to make calls and when to do administrative work
  • Schedule family vacations during slow periods. Offer a countdown to vacation time so there are no surprises for your boss or team
  • Employ the use of technology to increase efficiency
  • Draw a clear line between your personal and work time. Set clear expectations with your boss.
  • If you’re an overachiever, consider cutting back to realistic goals so you feel you’ve succeeded.

Got more practical ideas on improving work-life balance? We’d love to hear from you.

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