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Reframing what it means have balance

By MICHELLE GROENKE   |   Sept. 9, 2012 at 4:30 AM   |   Comments

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CHICAGO, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- Job satisfaction ranks higher than benefits and pay as the reason U.S. workers stay with their current employers, a survey by the American Psychological Association suggests.

While 60 percent of working adults said they remain with their current employers because of benefits and 50 said they stayed because of pay, 67 percent said they stay because their jobs fit well with other aspects of their lives. The same percentage said they stayed on the job because they like what they do, the American Psychological Association said last month.

Only 39 percent of respondents to the work-life survey cited lack of other job opportunities as a reason for staying with their current employers.

"Americans spend a majority of their waking hours at work and, as such, they want to have harmony between their job demands and the other parts of their lives," David W. Ballard, head of APA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, said in a statement. "To engage the workforce and remain competitive, it's no longer sufficient to focus solely on benefits. Today, top employers create an environment where employees feel connected to the organization and have a positive work experience that's part of a rich, fulfilling life."

Women were more likely to say work-life fit and job satisfaction were the reason they stayed with their current employers. Women were also more likely to say their relationships with their co-workers and managers, as well as their connection to the organization, were what kept them from seeking a different job.

Management consulting firms, which have a reputation for long hours and extensive business travel, are addressing quality-of-life issues with an eye toward attracting and retaining top employees

"When it comes to choosing an employer, consulting candidates are increasingly emphasizing quality-of-life issues, such as satisfaction and firm culture, in addition to weighing the prestige of a firm," Vault.com said last month in releasing their annual management and strategy consulting survey.

While McKinsey & Company was named the Most Prestigious Consulting Firm for the 11th straight year in Vault's rankings, rival Bain & Co. was named the Best Consulting Firm to Work For for the second straight year.

Censeo Consulting Group, which ranked 10th overall on the list, received top marks for employee satisfaction and firm culture.

"The firm would rather operate a project at a reduced profit by adding resources during peak periods versus overworking staff and burning consultants out," an employee was quoted as saying.

"People may not feel more secure their jobs, but the data suggest they are," John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., said recently in a release. "And we hear from many employers that they are actually increasingly concerned about losing existing workers as the economy continues to improve."

Jess Alberts, professor of human communications at Arizona State University, said demographics, economics and parenting styles have changed the way people look at work.

"Younger people have different expectations for the workplace," she told UPI. "They've seen their parents work for a very long time and then be laid off. They have less desire to invest as much of their lives in their work than the baby boomers did.

Expectations are also changing for baby boomers, who have worked so hard for years and are now seeing less reward, Alberts said.

Justin Boren, assistant professor of communications at Santa Clara University in California, says the pursuit of work-life balance can be a stressor in and of itself.

"It's very hard for many people to separate their work and their life," he said. "It is much easier to say work is their life."

While the flexibility offered in many office environments today is a good thing, "the bad thing is the notion that we must seek balance to be good employees," Boren told UPI.

Boren says the amenities offered by many top U.S. corporations, such as on-site daycare, fitness centers and restaurant options are really designed to keep employees at work as long as possible.

"These companies offer a variety of programs designed to keep the employee happy but really what it does is keep them present," he said.

Boren suggests people need to reframe their expectations.

"On an interpersonal level, seek social support," he said. Seeking co-workers, managers and people in their personal lives that can help ease the burden of their personal and work responsibilities.

Reframing, however, can mean "giving up some of the things that you may idealize," he said.

Alberts had a similar message about the need for people to stop expecting perfection in every aspect of their lives.

"We expect mothers and fathers to be super involved while also holding a full-time job," she said. Focus on what is most important, she said. "If having dinner together every night is really important, then make sure you focus on that."

Smartphones, social media, e-mail and texting have increasingly blurred the boundary between work and home.

Alberts suggests people turn off social media when they get home from work.

"You can turn off your e-mail, turn off your phone," Albert told UPI. "People need to send a very clear message about when they're available and when they're not."

Albert said employers can help employees achieve a better work-life balance by being flexible about intruding into their private lives. "Bosses could do a great good if they stopped communicating with employees after the end of the day."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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