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Work-life balance and the social rights of women
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The basics of work-life balance

What it is...Click to read

Work-life balance is commonly defined as the amount of time we spend at work compared to what we spend on family, social relationship, health and on the pursuit of our personal interests.

In other words, refers to our ability to balance the personal sphere with the professional one maintaining a healthy life style.

Why it is important...Click to read

In the recent times, the topic of work-life balance has become more popular due to the Covid-19 outbreak and the need to work from home (smartworking).

Indeed this has made the boundaries between private and working life more blurred.

Scientific studies have shown that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial to keep a good level of physical, emotional and mental well being, to reduce stress and improve one’s productivity. 

In fact, several scientific studies have shown how overwork can lead to sleep and memory disorders, depression, diabetes, cardio-circulatory deaseses, stroke.
Even without reaching the most serious consequences for health, the risk of reaching a condition of burnout is in any case very high. Burnout is a state of complete psycho-physical exhaustion due to chronic stress related to the work context. 

Work-life balance or work-life integration...Click to read

There is no single interpretation of the concept of work-life balance. Some, in fact, focus on the idea of equal distribution of resources to be dedicated to family and work (in terms of time, energy, degree of satisfaction).

In this definition the emphasis is put on  the separation of the  personal sphere from the work sphere and the two spheres seem to be in opposition to each other in the competition for our time.

This approach might be more suitable for employees

In other more recent interpretations, however, we prefer to speak of work-life integration, to emphasize that these are not separate and opposing aspects of life, but aspects that can be in synergy with each other and that if combined harmoniously, each contributes to the well-being  of the person.

From a graphical point of view, this work-life integration approach could be represented by a Venn diagram.

This approach might be more suitable for people who are self employed

Work-life balance and the social rights of women

The importance of work-life balance for women...Click to read

Women very often find themselves having to choose between family, most of the times because of the difficulty in the conciliation with domestic commitments, and this is even more true for mothers. For socio-cultural reasons, there is greater social pressure on women to take more responsibility for family care and household chores compared to men. As the number of children increases, the employment rate decreased accordingly, which shows how the women’s employment is still strongly linked to the family situation.

Social Rights and shared responsabilitiesClick to read

In this situation of objective inequality of conditions experienced by women compared to men, it is necessary that politics intervene with ad hoc measures that support them by better distributing, familiy and care responsabilities not only between the parents, but also among all the social stakeholders, like schools, non-profit organizations, companies and other public bodies.

How the formula of work-life balance for mothers and women in general should look like:

shared family and care responsibilities + personal ability of work-life balance = success and well being

Social Rights and shared responsabilitiesClick to read

Shared responsibility rights are a number of  benefits and subsidies provided by law in all European Union countries. The recent European Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers aims of to encourage a better sharing of care responsabilities between women and men and introduces minimum social rights, such as:

  • Paternity leave: at least 10 paid working days at the time of the birth of a child
  • Parental leave: individual right of at least 4 months of which 2 are paid
  • Carers’ leave: workers caring for family members in need of care or support due to a serious health reason may take 5 working days per year.
  • Flexible working arrangements: working parents up to 8 years of age or older and carers have the right to request the following flexible working arrangements: reduced working hours, flexible working hours, flexible workplace

Know your rights…

Tip! Always check what are the benefits and subsidies for parenting  to  which you are entitled in the welfare  section of the website of your region or your municipality, or go directly to the welfare desk of your  city (for example school canteen service, vouchers for nurseries, etc.).

Strategies and tips for work-life balance

The 3-step strategyClick to read

In this unit we will guide you through a 3-step strategy to build a new work-life balance tailored to your needs, through a re-evaluation of your typical day and the way you spend your time, with the aim of liberating your energies on the goals you hold dear, without abandoning your daily responsibilities.

Ready? Let’s start!

Step #1: Take your time and reflect

Taking the time to understand how the various aspects of our daily lives impact on each other is the first step needed to develop a new integration between work and private life that responds to your real needs.

Some questions you may ask yourself are:

  • Am I spending enough quality time on what I really want?
  • Am I devoting enough time and energy to people or things that are meaningful to me?
  • Do I still feel aligned with my professional or personal goals? Why or why not?
  • Where do I feel most stuck? What makes me feel this way in this situation?

In practice: get a diary and try to write down on a daily basis for at least 2 - 4 weeks the activities you do, the events, how much time you dedicate to each activity and how they make you feel: what gives you satisfaction and meaning, what instead brings you down and takes away precious energy.

As you ponder these personal questions, writing down your thoughts and feelings helps you to identify areas that you feel need more adjustments. Ultimately, these questions should help you shed more light on your current life situation.

Once you've gathered this information, you can start prioritizing the time you spend daily on activities that give you the most satisfaction and contribute to your goals.

Step #2: Re-evaluate and re-prioritize

Once you have a better idea of where your work-life balance might be most impacted, you'll need to redefine your  priorities and  goals and reassess your overall approach to achieve them. During this step, identify what is most meaningful to you and why, but also consider alternatives to pursue them in your life.

Some questions you may ask yourself are:

  • What is really important to me and am I doing it enough?
  • Where can I compromise? Where can I not? Where have I made too many compromises?
  • What are the alternative actions I can take to make sure I devote enough time and energy to my goals and relationships?
  • Where can  I combine my responsibilities so that I can honor more than one at the same time?

In practice:

I. Write the list of your recurring daily tasks: Be honest and keep track of every activity. For example: breakfast, shopping, walking to work, answering emails, etc. The key is to get a clear snapshot of how you're spending your time.

II. Separate the urgent from the important things: take the list of tasks and classify them according to their level of urgency and importance. The easiest way to do this is by using the Eisenhower Matrix, a simple four-square grid created by former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Take your daily activities and place them inside the most suitable box.
III.Create your ideal schedule: Reduce, discard, or delegate as many "urgent and non important" tasks as possible, and then create a schedule for your ideal work week.
Some questions you may ask yourself are:
  • What do you do at various times of the day?
  • Does it contribute to some bigger goal or does it only serve to solve contingencies?
  • Have you planned time for non-work activities or leisure time for things you like?
IV.Test the new activity schedule for at least a week: With the new program in hand, commit yourself for a week. Is it feasible? Can you respect it?
Perhaps that task you delegated should have been discarded altogether, or you realize that what you thought was "urgent" is actually an important part of your new work-life balance. It will take some time to refine the way it works.
 
Step #3: Reflect, refine and try again
Whatever action you decide to take to create a good work-life balance, you need to be aware that you'll likely need to continue perfecting it over time. Big life changes can take time, so reflecting on the approach you're taking and refining it periodically will likely be an integral part of the process. 
Practical advices for a better work-life balanceClick to read

Whatever your work and life situation is, there are a few general principles and rules that are very useful to keep in mind when trying to build a better work-life balance for you. Here are our recommendations

TIP #1

Learn to say NO!

Learn to say no to commitments, requests, events and activities that do not "nourish" you and that do not contribute to your goals. It is not about being selfish, but about self-awareness and the desire to maintain your balance in order to live in harmony with yourself.

TIP #2

Ask for help and learn to delegate!

It is important to turn to the outside by negotiating with the different actors: husband, grandparents, children (if old enough), boss, colleagues, collaborators, friends.

If you live with someone, sharing household chores is a great way to reduce the work load

TIP #3

Respect your personal time and set the boundaries!

Give your personal time the same weight and priority you give to work. Turn off your smartphone and computer when you're dining or spending time with family or friends.

Similarly, ask friends or family not to interrupt your workday, unless it's an emergency.

TIP #4

Make small changes at a time!

When trying to make changes to your daily routine, it's easy to fall into the temptation to set goals that are too ambitious and unrealistic, with the risk of frustrating our good intentions. Therefore, in putting into practice new good habits it is recommended to:

  • Start with small changes that bring a small improvement to your work-life balance
  • Be as constant as possible in the new habit
  • Start implementing the habits that can be defined as "keystones" or those that can have a driving effect on the others you want to put into practice: for example, if you have set yourself the goal of adopting a healthier lifestyle and therefore intend to do physical activity, eat better, sleep more and be more productive at work,  then it might be enough to start just by doing some exercise to stimulate other good habits as well.
TIP #5

Look for flexible working conditions!

Often the pressure of being physically "at work" leads us to work too much and lose sight of the balance we seek.

While it's by no means perfect, remote working or flexible  working hours allows you to work the way that suits you, plan your day based on what you need to do, and have time for activities that are meaningful to you.

TIP #6

Focus on one task at a time!

Focusing on one task at a time will allow you to complete it faster and with fewer errors. Give yourself the right time and focus to put more effort into achieving your goals and priorities.

TIP #7

Let go of perfectionism!

A big part of what drives us to overwork and compromise our work-life balance is the need to do our best work. But above all it is the compulsive belief that, if we do not commit ourselves beyond expectations, we will fail, be penalized or even lose our jobs. The problem is that perfectionists view mistakes as personal failures, rather than a natural part of our learning and growth. To break the circle of perfectionism, some psychologists advice:

  • Become aware of this negative dialogue with yourself and be more compassionate towards yourself
  • Take the time to understand if the goals and expectations you set yourself are actually feasible
  • Talk to someone about irrational fears of failing
TIP #8

Disconnect!

Have you ever heard of the right to disconnect?

Long story short: when you work you work and when you're done... You're done! Especially for those who do smartworking, it is important to draw a line: being at home is not an excuse to always be connected and available 24 hours a day. Here are some tips:

  • Impose yourself not to use screens before going to bed: using your smartphone or PC before going to bed delays your body's biological clock, which means that it is more difficult to fall asleep or reach the REM state of deeper and more restful sleep. Try to establish the rule of not using screens within 2 hours of going to bed
  • Adjust your smartphone notification settings: Waking up with your phone full of notifications or being constantly bombarded with emails, chats, social media or calls means you're never really "out of work." You can turn them off completely or change them to mute mode.
  • Find other sources for your news or information: many of us fall into the trap of needing to feel informed about everything that happens in the world. But the news cycle never stops, and trying to catch up leads to information overload and increased time spent away from "non-work" activities. To regain balance, try to find sources of "slow news," such as books and magazines, that don't make you feel like you're always missing something out.
 
Wrap upClick to read

After understanding what work-life balance is, why it is important for our lives and  what strategies we can put into practice, it is always good to remember that work-life balance is not a state that is reached once and for all. Instead, it is a path, a balance to be re-established every time there are changes or our needs change.

It is true, however, as various psychological theories claim, that the greater the presence and investment in differentiated areas of our existence, the greater the overall quality of our life and consequently our well-being.  For this, we need to experiment in different areas, and not only in the work or family one.

 

 

Summing up

Summing upClick to read

Work-life balance
The amount of time we spend at work compared to what we spend on family, social relationship, health and on the pursuit of our personal interests.

     
 

Work-life balance rights
A number of benefits and subsidies provided by law to better distribute family and care responsibilities among women and men.

   
   

Prioritizing
Re-defining your priorities, by separating what is urgent and/or important from what is not (the Eisenhower matrix is a good tool to do that).

 
     

Smartworking
It is a mode of execution of the work which does not have precise constraints of time and place and it's performed by the means of technological tools.

Test Yourself
TestClick to start


Keywords:

Work-life balance, social rights, family, work, shared responsibilities


Objectives:
  • By the end of this module you will be able to:
    1.    Understand the meaning of work-life balance and its special importance for women
    2.    Get to know the social rights of women in terms of redistribution of home and care responsibilities
    3.    Learn an easy method to build a new work-life balance that works for you
    4.    Get useful and practical advices to improve your work-life balance

Description:

In this module we will understand what work-life balance is and why it is important especially for women who very often bear the most part of the domestic and family care responsibilities, mostly due to a stereotyped concept of their role in the society. We will see how a fairer distribution of these responsibilities among several social stakeholders is essential to prevent women from having to choose between family and work.

We will also see which are the social rights of women meant to facilitate their participation in the labor market and we will discover what are the strategies and practices that can be adopted for a better reconciliation of work with other aspects of life.


Resources:

"3 rules for better work-life balance"| The Way We Work, a TED series, Youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4c_xYLwOx-g

Work Life Balance is a Lie (DO THIS INSTEAD), Youtube, (English) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtLOft-5_hI

10 Habits to Follow for a Better Work-Life Balance, Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teE-xVO-ljw

The Eisenhower Matrix: how to manage your tasks with Eisenhower, Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tT89OZ7TNwc&t=9s


Related Materials:

Eisenhower matrix in pdf to download for free
https://www.ionos.it/startupguide/fileadmin/StartupGuide/Downloads/Matrice-di-Eisenhower-IT.pdf


Bibliography
  • Work-life balance definition, Cambridge Dictionary

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/work-life-balance

  • Work-life integration, Berkeley Haas

https://haas.berkeley.edu/human-resources/work-life-integration/

  • Work-life integration is the new work-life balance, by Danielle Fallon-O'Leary, CO-

https://www.uschamber.com/co/grow/thrive/work-life-integration-vs-work-life-balance

  • Work-life balance: What It is and How to achieve It, Coursera, 2022

https://www.coursera.org/articles/work-life-balance

  • Finding work life balance: Tips, techniques, and exercises for a more balanced life, Jory MacKay, Rescue Time, 2017

https://blog.rescuetime.com/work-life-balance-tips/

  • Women, Work and Motherhood: Finding a Balance Between Family and Career, Raquel Baptista, Insidemarketing.it

https://www.insidemarketing.it/donne-tra-maternita-e-lavoro-femminile/

  • "What is work-life balance and how to achieve it" Jobbydoo

https://www.jobbydoo.it/blog/work-life-balance

  • "Work-life balance for parents and carers", European Council

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/it/policies/work-life-balance/

  • "Work-life balance: 10 tips to manage it better", PMI.it, 2022

https://www.pmi.it/impresa/business-e-project-management/75695/work-life-balance-10-consigli-per-gestirlo-al-meglio.html

  • The Eisenhower or Covey Matrix for Priority Management

https://www.danea.it/blog/matrice-di-eisenhower-covey/



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