Work-Life Fit

Close-up Of A Businesswoman's Hand Covering Balance Between Life And Work On Seesaw

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From the Conference

Keynote speaker, Nancy Costikyan, MSW, LICSW – Director of the Office of Work/Life at Harvard University and Teaching Associate in Psychiatry within Harvard Medical School, discussed her work-life manifesto and how work-life can be “badass.” Click here to read her story. Click here for her article that inspired the story and click here for Chuck Norris’s article.


Work-life fit is connecting employees’ work lives and personal lives together in a way that allows them to succeed in both. Work-life fit is different than work-life balance because balance implies that employees need to be putting equal time or effort into their work and personal lives, which is not always possible. Sometimes employees work lives will take more time or effort, and other times their personal lives will take more time or effort (Hutchison, n.d.d). Using work-life fit allows employees to actively adjust their work and personal lives to fit together and accommodate each other. Balance is reactive, where fit is proactive, allowing each person to plan and address their most pressing work and family concerns in a way that works for them (Hutchison, n.d.d). 

Having a better fit between employees’ work and personal lives can bring them many benefits, including lower stress, less burnout, and increased productivity. An improved work-life fit can also increase morale amongst employees, lead to greater attraction and retention of employees, and reduce employees’ absenteeism (MacKay, 2017; Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2016). To fully achieve these benefits both for employees and the organization, there needs to be buy-in on all levels, and potentially adjustments to ideas surrounding how work should be conducted. Working remotely does not necessarily mean employees are not being productive, work-life programs are for all employees in all types of personal situations, and supervisors also need to have work-life fit in their own lives (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2016). Addressing these potential misconceptions can help facilitate buy-in and bring about the benefits related to successful work-life fit.

Some ways employees can improve their work-life fit are by prioritizing tasks, creating time away from work, and being honest with themselves about their priorities. Employees’ prioritizing and organizing their time allows for separation of important and urgent tasks, both personally and professionally, from less important tasks (Hutchison, n.d.d). This helps employees ensure they accomplish important tasks. Additionally, employees separating themselves from work during their non-work hours is especially important. In fact, the more employees are in contact with work-related tasks, the more health problems and absences from work they experience (Dettmers et al., 2016). One way to do this is with regular “digital detoxes” to help employees get a break from work and ensure they have time to fit their personal life into their whole life (MacKay, 2017). Flexible work arrangements can also help with fitting work and personal lives together. See the Flexible Work Arrangements section to learn more. Lastly, employees being honest with themselves about their limits, and setting boundaries around those limits, can help create time for both their work and personal lives (MacKay, 2017).

There are a few steps units can take to make their workplace more supportive of employees’ work-life fit. As mentioned above, getting buy-in from all levels of the organization is helpful (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2016). This helps make fitting employees’ personal and professional lives together more of a norm within the workplace if all types of employees are doing it. Creating a policy that makes work-life fit a standard within the unit also can help ensure support (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2016). Additionally, having this policy be flexible to accommodate different employees’ needs and adjusting it as needed will help with employees accepting it and putting it into practice. Lastly, supervisors being clear about how hours and productivity will be monitored and assessed can support employees’ work-life fit (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 2016).

At a Glance

Work-life fit is connecting employees’ work lives and personal lives together in ways that allow them to succeed in both areas and plan proactively to do so.

How work-life fit is different than work-life balance:

  • Work-life balance implies that employees need to be putting equal time or effort into their work and personal lives, which is not always possible
  • Balance is reactive, while fit allows people to be proactive, to individualize, and to plan ahead in accommodating their work and personal lives

Benefits of having a good work-life fit:

  • Lower stress
  • Less burnout
  • Greater retention of employees
  • Increased morale amongst employees
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduced absenteeism

How employees can improve their work-life fit:

  • Prioritize and organize their time
  • Separate themselves from work with regular digital detoxes and make an effort to not dwell on workplace issues or emotions from work
  • Implement a flexible work arrangement
  • Be honest to themselves about their limits

How to create a workplace that supports work-life fit:

  • Educate all levels of employees on the benefits of having work-life fit
  • Identify small practices the unit can do to promote work-life fit
  • Create a policy that makes work-life fit a standard within the unit, and is flexible to accommodate different employees’ needs 
  • Be clear about how hours and productivity will be monitored and assessed 

Resources on Campus

  • WorkLife Office
    • Offers many presentations and trainings on a variety of topics including improving employees’ work-life fit, such as Busting the Myth of Work-Life Balance. This presentation teaches employees tips on how to create a work-life fit that works for them and their unique blend of responsibilities. This session also provides tools for reducing work-life stress, understanding employees’ own work styles, as well as their colleagues’, and creating an environment that works for the whole work team

References

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety. (2016, December 1). OSH answers fact sheets: Work/Life balancehttps://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/worklife_balance.html.   

Dettmers, J., Vahle-Hinz, T., Bamberg, E., Friedrich, N., & Keller, M. (2016). Extended Work Availability and Its Relation With Start-Of-Day Mood and Cortisol. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 21(1), 105-118https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/features/ocp-ocpa0039602.pdf

Hutchison, J. (n.d.d). Work-life fit takes a village. Michigan State University WorkLife Office. https://worklife.msu.edu/news/work-life-fit-takes-village 

MacKay, J. (2017, November 7). Finding work-life balance: Tips, techniques, and exercises for a more balanced life. RescueTime.  https://blog.rescuetime.com/work-life-balance-tips/#work

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