Speaking notes of the talk given at the Monash Women’s Business Network meeting on Wednesday 10th November 2010, where I was part of a panel of 3 speakers talking about Work Life Balance. This followed on from Ann Barker (State Member for Oakleigh) and Jane Riley (owner of Set 4 Life)
The consequences of not achieving a good work –life balance
For business, the consequences of poor work life balance translate into decreased productivity and increased absenteeism.
For the employee, particularly women, there are a number of issues to be considered.
The home workload is often as great for the working woman as her paid work commitments, even if she is only working part-time.
An article in the Age (August 4, 2010) stated that there was an increase in the number of people who felt that their jobs were interfering with their family time. Interestingly, a survey by the University of South Australia, quoted in the article, found that while Australia has one of the worlds highest percentages of women in part-time work, they demonstrated the same stress levels as men who were engaged in full-time work.
Who is at risk? What are the issues?
Middle aged professionals such as accountants, lawyers and teachers are at greater risk of a diverse range of health problems, divorce and even early death if they don’t get their work life balance right. This is most apparent with achievement orientated people and those driven to succeed.
The result of long and intensive stress is disease. The stress comes from working harder and longer but not necessarily smarter in our technology driven world. The very machines that were to free us from labour have enslaved us in other ways. There is the expectation for women to do more things in less time. Our feminist forebears would turn in their graves if they could see the outcome.
Stress, in itself, can be either a positive or a negative experience, but regardless of how one perceives it, the flight or fight response is activated. The experience can become addictive.
Hormones such as CRH (Corticotrophin) and AVP (Arginine-vasopressin) are released and activate neurons in the hypothalamus.
Cortisol – This is a primary stress hormone, releases sugar and increased glucose into the bloodstream. This inhibits function in the digestive, immune and reproductive systems and affects growth and development.
Adrenaline – another hormone and a neurotransmitter, which when released, increases the heart rate, the respiratory rate and blood pressure.
The hormonal changes can cause symptoms which manifest as palpitations, rapid heart rates, nausea, vomiting, digestive upsets such as diarrhea or constipation, cold clammy hands and muscular tension.
Stressors can be mental, emotional, physical or psychological. The consequences of sustained stress are (& this is not an exhaustive list)
Higher blood pressure,
With any or all of these stressors continuing to occur, the immune system becomes depressed and chronic stress sets in. So how does this happen? The cycle of stress costs us more than an unhealthy body.
As Cortisol levels rise – as a result of stress – obesity becomes an issue. Chronic stress affects the production and storage of fat in our bodies. We are already at risk of obesity with our eating habits altered. Time poor we reach for the fast food solution, which is often high in fat and sugar, altering our blood chemistry and increasing our risk of high cholesterol, diabetes and heart failure.
Stress related illnesses cost not only family, but the community. We are seeing an increase in stress related immune diseases, such as Glandular Fever, Shingles and Lupus. The immune system is further weakened by poor eating habits and our addiction to tea, coffee, sugar, salt, alcohol and other substances. Our sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise, pollution and drugs and medicines all contribute to compromise an overloaded system. So often we are “running on empty” and when we finally get that holiday and relax, we get sick.
Other indicators of stress can be alopecia – for both men and women
Facial stress lines
Behavioral stress, often leading to family conflicts, divorce
Alcohol or substance abuse
Coronary heart disease and stroke
Depression and for some, the pressure becomes too much and suicide becomes their option.
In searching for a work life balance, we need to look at what support we have. Many women feel like they are on a merry-go-round of exhaustion and lack family support. The traditional family structures have disappeared and with relocation from our original homes, the modern professional woman may have no backup to relieve them from the exhaustion of their daily grind. They may even find that their work life balance fluctuating wildly from chaos to perfect balance.
Setting personal goals is valuable and they need to be clear and achievable.
I could use an F word here – in fact I could use at least 6!
The first is FOCUS
Focusing clearly on goals for all of these areas will help to prioritize needs.
Just a tiny adjustment and stroke of the pen will change those F words to P words….
Prune what is necessary. The garden often flourishes once the old, dead wood has been pruned out.
Focus will help remove those noxious weeds of guilt and overwhelm. Ask yourself “How much responsibility will I take on? (Jane spoke about exercising the “NO” muscle) How will it impact on my wellbeing?”
By being present and not taking work home (if possible – teachers will have difficulty here) and outsourcing tasks (if affordable), stress can be reduced.
Prioritize what is important to you – your health or the housework?
Good childcare is hard to source and if you can get it, take it. It is there for you.
Make some time for yourself – make an appointment for you