The cost of living is on the rise day after day. In this situation, where every household has one breadwinner, this can no longer be seen as practical.
The increased number of husband-and-wife couples working in Malaysia is a situation that is generally accepted by the society as it is today.
However, the busy lifestyle led by working couples often creates an issue of work-life balance.
Couples who are working are often placed on the crossroads and face with the dilemma. When they are at the workplace, it makes them think about their children’s well-being at home. And when they are at home, it makes them think about unfinished work or unexpected assignments at the office.
The current technological growth makes individuals work anytime and anywhere, non-stop.
The current and future work styles that are shifting to the automation technology contribute to longer working hours. We work 24/7.
Workers today can continue their work at home for any task that cannot be finished at work. Employers or bosses will contact their staff and give instructions after working hours or during the staff’s day off; this is common in many countries, including Malaysia.
Working 24/7 will surely create issues with regard to family and work balance.
Parents need to continue to work hard to get income to ensure that their children get the best education. Quality time with the children is becoming more and more limited.
Although they live under the same roof, it is difficult for them to communicate with one another.
The time spent with children takes a back seat. The happiness felt during the first years begins to wane as people tend to their WhatsApp more, and as they have to consistently check with their bosses for the work that has to be done. This causes the spouse and children to feel hurt and frustrated.
It would be impossible to start looking for a replacement like forbidden materials, gadgets and social media when this happens.
Honestly, work-life balance is something very difficult to do in life.
Spending time with family can make one feel guilty, stressed and bring out a dilemma within himself or herself because they have neglected their family.
Too little attention and effort at workplace creates the worry that career development will be affected and be put on hold.
As both elements are thought to be equally important, a lot have assumed that the role and time must be given to both equally.
We are not looking for equality in the distribution of time and concentration, but harmony between work and life.
One’s ability to enjoy four aspects of life, namely career, family, friends and oneself is subjective.
However, in the face of reality and when having to choose between family and work, three situations will be taking place.
Firstly, there are individuals who will choose work over family.
Secondly, there will be individuals who prioritize their family.
Finally, there are idealists who admit they see both as equally important.
Realistically speaking, looking at the development of lifestyle we have today, there are times when I feel the work-life balance is merely a myth, but it is not impossible if it can be achieved, given the right way of doing it.
Thus, how do we achieve work-life balance?
Desiring an absolute balance between work and family like giving attention to both is simply unrealistic.
For me, the working hours of eight to ten hours a day will be balanced if individuals allocate quality time with their families as well.
Spending half an hour for dinner with the family without much distraction from the gadgets and the like, can also strike a balance between family and work.
A day off from work free from the workload and influence of technology is also able to create a strong bond in the family.
In brief, we are not looking for equality in the distribution of time and concentration, but harmony between the two.
Based on this harmony, the synergy between work and life will emerge and the much desired balance will present by itself.
The balance can be achieved when individuals allocate their mental, physical and emotional resources in ways that can cater for personal and professional goals.
It means here that we need to work hard at work so that the time at work is used to the fullest to carry out the tasks and responsibilities granted by the organization.
By contrast, when one is at home, do give the attention and care to your loved ones.
We should bear in mind that money is not everything in life. Happiness, health, peace and love cannot be bought with money.
Thus, always be wary when succumbing to your career for the sake of money.
Find a point of balance between your personal life and your career!
(Dr. Zafir Khan bin Mohamed Makhbul is Professor and Dean, UKM-Graduate School of Business (UKM-GSB), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.)