The History of Work-Life Balance

The History of Work-Life Balance

In the days of old…

Can you imagine a time where the average American would have to put in sixty-hour weeks for measly pay and little to no benefits?  If you cannot recall that time period in U.S. history, you are not alone, but the fact remains that that was the norm about a hundred years ago!  There was no such thing as a Work-Life balance back in the early 1900’s, as farmers and factory workers would work tirelessly to make ends meet.  Even most children would forgo the traditional education route in order to provide for their families, and the middle-class lifestyle revolved around work.  Though nowadays, the thought of teenagers slaving away at a factory instead of spending hours on Netflix or Keeping up with the Kardashians would seem like a capital idea to most hard-working parents, most would agree that such a grim lifestyle is not suitable for a child (nor anyone, really). Thankfully, work-life balance has changed dramatically over time.

A change in public opinion…

As we moved into the twentieth century, the push for eight-hour workdays was strong from the American public, and employers finally realized that overworking their employees could lead to long-term mental and physical health issues.  I’m sure we are all familiar with that feeling of being overloaded with work and stress from different areas in our lives. Often, we simply shut down as a result of how overwhelmed we are.  The major corporations in the 1900’s finally figured out that it was in their best interests to keep a worker operating machinery whilst fresh and vigilant, instead of having him dozing off on the job and losing a couple of limbs in the process.  Eventually, workers were able to gather numerous health benefits and workman’s compensation as part of their employee rights. Women shortly thereafter entered the workforce and it soon led to about 80 percent of Americans revealing that they were overworked or not satisfied with their social lives, as, oftentimes, there is a strong correlation between the two.

In the modern day, Americans are encouraged to spend quality time with their children and maintain a distance between work and play.  Since being overworked and experiencing high stress levels are common among American employees, Americans are encouraged to invest in de-stressing activities such as playing an instrument or taking a vacation with the family.

The U.S. is behind in work-life balance ratings…

On the Better Life Index, the U.S. ranked very poorly compared to our European counterparts, as most countries in Europe give their workers more time off and have them work fewer hours.  When being measured with the 36 other countries on the list, America was the only nation that did not provide both the mother and father with paid leave after their baby is born.  This fact greatly lowers the U.S.’s rating.  On the flip side, Europeans nations such as Denmark, which holds the top spot in the work-life balance rating, allow both parents to take up to a year off in paid leave, which would be unheard of in America.  To add to that, 11 percent of Americans reported that they worked 50-hour weeks, which puts America in the “very long hours” category.  All in all, the work-life balance in America has drastically improved over time but still needs vast improvement in improving the stress and happiness of American workers.

Taking matters into our own hands…

In the meanwhile, however, we must take the reigns of our work-life balance into our own hands to ensure our success. There is always room for improvement in every category of our lives, which is why we encourage you to read our Self-Help sections here on Urbyn Loft. All steps forward, even small ones, add up, and, over time, improve our lives overall. Trusting the government to give us enough time with our families or a big enough salary at work is naïve at best, particularly when we have so much power in our hands already. At the end of the day, your work-life balance is up to you, and it’s up to you to compartmentalize and utilize to tailor your life to suit your preferences.

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