Some of you will be aware (and others not) that I spoke on ITV news (Wales region) on Friday 22nd May 2015 on stress and work-life imbalance in the professions. In particular the piece discussed the recent report from the National Union of Teachers about stress in the teaching workforce related to work-life imbalance (see the report here http://goo.gl/aZL0kL) but it also touched on the reported stress in general practitioners (GPs) (see this Guardian report for a summary http://goo.gl/8HNrfw).
Now of course these professions are not unique in experiencing work-life imbalance as a result of their stressful work and a recent study by the Guardian identified that the public sector was crumbling under the weight of work related stress http://goo.gl/vCbCP5
My own study about work-life imbalance in occupational therapists in health and social care settings (http://www.jkp.com/uk/challenging-stress-burnout-and-rust-out.html) identified endemic stress and life imbalance in these work places, with the results relevant not only to all the helping professions but to people working in other organisations beyond these fields, because it was the cultural context of work in the UK that was clearly causal.
Why was this? Well as I’ve noted in previous blogs the natural attitude we hold in Western economies is one of growth, consumerism and productivity; in this kind of context time is literally spent and as its tariff is measured in terms of doing paid work or meeting obligations in life so the value of spending time with family, community or personal activity is lost.
Initially this may not seem so bad, but the problem is that it is through this imbalance that we misplace meaning in life and wellbeing is compromised. The answer then is to re-establish a sense of balance and meaning in life and a meaningful life is marked by experiencing quality time in a range of activities, with family, friends and communities; it is about being creative and exploring potential and it is about holding a meaning orientation in life over performance and growth. Can we do this? Yes we can because you can make a difference when you change and you open a door for others to follow.