Today (1st March, 2010) is Work-Life Balance Day – and it is being promoted as a means of keeping people in work – flexible work patterns as a way of maintaining jobs. The Minister for Labour Affairs, Dara Calleary, TD said “Implementing more flexible working arrangements can be a means of averting the threat of redundancies and job losses”. And this may well be true (and in today’s recessionary times incredibly important), but surely this misses the point? Is it not meant to be about achieving a balance between our work and home lives? Work-Life Balance Day should be as much about the benefits work-life balance can bring to our home and family lives as the benefits it can bring to the workplace.
Work-Life Balance is of enormous benefit to children and families. It is not just about benefits to employers, and a reduction in hours for an employee, it is also about reconciling the responsibilities of our family and work lives. It is about living and enjoying our family life, not just working to live. And yes, there are many who would love to be in a position to be working to live rather than looking for work – we are in the midst of a recession that has had an enormous impact on children and families. And those who have lost their job have a different perspective on what work-life balance means, to those who are still working.
Work-life balance should work both ways. We need to start looking at work-life balance as something other than tweaking our working lives to make it easier to fit our family lives around them. It is about achieving a real balance in our lives. A balance that means we can meet all our responsibilities, not just our work ones. A balance that is good for children, good for the economy and good for society.