The Impact Of The Workplace On Our Home Lives
Modern life is stressful. That certainly seems to be the key message these days judging by the plethora of self-help books and magazine articles that promise to help us relieve the stress in our lives. But what are the causes of this anxiety? With the average American spending the majority of their waking hours at work, it seems to me that the workplace has to be a major contributor to all this stress. And that’s not forgetting all the extra hours we spend getting ourselves to work either, battling traffic jams or the vagaries of public transport — that alone is enough stress for most people! But what is the effect of all this anxiety on our homes and the most important relationships in our lives — those with our partners and children?
It seems to me that Maslow got it pretty much right with his hierarchy of needs. The foundation for every human beyond the basic needs for shelter, sustenance and safety are those relating to love and belonging. Given that we spend more time with our colleagues in the workplace than we do with our partners, the relationships that we forge with our co-workers must have an impact on our home lives. If our working relationships are disorganized and unproductive, then it follows that our home life will be affected by the same disorder. And if the relations with our workmates are stressful and anxious, then it’s inevitable that this will be reflected in our relationships at home.
Maslow identified self-actualization and esteem as being the other essential elements in his hierarchy of needs. These concepts relate to the need to feel a sense of accomplishment, having an outlet for our creativity and problem-solving abilities as well as having the opportunity to achieve our potential. Most of us satisfy these basic needs in the workplace. It’s here that we are challenged intellectually and it’s here that we often develop the confidence and self-respect that we need to nurture those personal relationships outside of work.
Feeling as though you’re productive is, therefore, fundamental to our very well-being as humans. But how productive are we really when we are surrounded by so much stress and anxiety?
I spend a lot of time working from my home office. I like the fact that I’m not wasting valuable time sitting in traffic. I like the fact that I can sometimes pick up my kids from school. I like the fact that I can spend quality time with my partner over a morning coffee. But above all, I like the fact that I am productive and getting things accomplished in my home life as well as my career.
Now, achieving a work-life balance may have become something of a cliché these days, but actually, when you mull over Maslow’s basic needs, it makes a lot of sense. Modern life is too stressful and perhaps we need to take a step back, reflect more on what’s really important in life and redress the balance.
I’m certainly very grateful for the fact that modern technology has enabled me to do just that. I can be just as productive at home using my laptop and a Wi-Fi connection as I would be in the office. But the difference is that I am also productive at home. I can make dinner. I can put a load of washing on. I can let the TV repairman in. As a result, I feel less stressed and anxious all round and I actually get to spend more time with the people that really matter.
Now, we started off by considering the impact of our relationships in the workplace on our home lives. And the converse is also true: happy and productive relationships at home will be reflected in the office; the two go hand in hand and getting the balance right makes for much less stress across the board.