Beyond Balance

By Julia Broder

The phrase work-life balance’ is slowly phasing out of the corporate lexicon as new research encourages employers to pursue holistic company policies regarding their employees’ wellness. Like the old model of “balance,” the new “effectiveness” model allows employees to prioritize their personal and professional time. Unlike the “balance” approach, it does not insinuate that employees must designate equal, in-flexible amounts of time to both areas of life. This flexibility maximizes the quality of their work product. 

The Catalyst Organization defines Work-Life Effectiveness as a “talent management strategy that focuses on doing the best work at the best time with the best talent” (“Work-Life Effectiveness Archives”, 2019). Work-Life Effectiveness proponents suggest that employees’ quality of work improves, as well as their overall happiness, if employers focus on supporting them to make smarter, independent decisions regarding their work and personal lives. Such strategies include flexibility with telecommuting, project designation based on employee’s personal interests and heightened emphasis on access to mental health programs. Other, less structural implements, include encouraging management to share their interests and hobbies outside of the office and advocating for employees to use their interests to inform their work.  

In January 2016, the American Sociological Review published a study testing the Work-Life Effectiveness theory. Roughly 900 employees at an unnamed IT company participated in the group study. Half of the employees were placed in a control group while the other half worked under management utilizing Work-Life Effectiveness program. Ultimately, the latter group exhibited, “reduced burnout, perceived stress, and psychological distress, and increased job satisfaction…partially mediated by increases in schedule control and declines in family-to-work conflict and burnout…” (Moen, et al., 2016).   

At the heart of Work-Life Effectiveness is inclusivityBy providing wellbeing programs and telecommuting options, employees with chronic medical or mental health issues, single-parents, or those without access to reliable urban or rural transportation, will be able to participate as enthusiastically and effectively as others who do not face similar obstacles. Companies using Work-Life Effectiveness strategies will be equipped to hire more diversely.  

Employee wellness is a relatively new field of study for sociologists and studies have not found a single, conclusive solution. However, research and data show that companies willing to adapt and integrate Work-Life Effectiveness programs report improvement in work product and overall employee happiness in their positions. If a third of our lives are spent at work, there’s little argument against continuing to strive for improved employee wellbeing and company morale.  


Moen, P., Kelly, E. L., Fan, W., Lee, S., Almeida, D., Kossek, E. E., & Buxton, O. M. (2016). Does a Flexibility/Support Organizational Initiative Improve High-Tech Employees’ Well-Being? Evidence from the Work, Family, and Health Network. American Sociological Review,81(1), 134-164. doi:10.1177/0003122415622391 

Work-Life Effectiveness Archives. (n.d.). Retrieved June 11, 2019, from