The expression ‘work-life balance’ is relatively new; it was first coined in the UK in the late 1970s and it has been utilized in the corporate world in the last 20 years or so.
It describes the healthy balance between an individual’s work and their personal commitments, such as their leisure activities, their family and private life.
The very existence of this term ‘work-life balance’ itself is a symptom of an anomaly in the life of the modern man, as it alludes to an imbalance between work and life.
It is as if work and life were acting as two opposing forces, in which work must be detrimental to a balanced and healthy life.
With the fast pace of globalization, the increasing demands that companies place upon employees has indeed created a life imbalance, which has generated a source of tremendous stress for many individuals.
In addition, it has been documented that this phenomenon has resulted in detrimental performance for the company.
In Kyudo, it is fundamental that the left and right arm work in balance to draw the bow and then release the arrow with the hands moving equally in a straight line to the left and the right.
To teach this technique, masters communicate a metaphor that has been transmitted throughout the times: ‘The left arm is the husband and the right arm is the wife.
The husband and wife must perform their respective roles in proper harmony, so that the children grow in a straight way, as the arrow flying straight to its target.’
Applying the metaphor of Kyudo to the workplace, it can be said that these two forces between work and life should complement each other harmoniously, just as the left and right arm do in Japanese archery.
In so doing, we can expect the individual to lead a fulfilling life, grow into their full potential and perform better at work.
Today, work-life balance is still an issue for many companies.
At Godiva Japan, we support our employees in having a good work-life balance, and they are very grateful for this.
For example, Fridays are called ‘Happy Fridays’: after two o’clock, the employees go out and visit our shops or do something fulfilling for their personal life.
Through this practice, we encourage them to feel and experience the importance of activities outside the office.
As we are in the business of providing happiness, this is a beneficial practice for both the individual and the company.
It is often by walking around in town that new ideas and services for the consumer can pop up.
Unfortunately, this type of thinking is not very common in today’s business world.
Leisure and hobbies tend to not be pursued as much as work, and they are not recognized with the same regard and high esteem as career success.
Many people only truly start considering activities outside their work, such as hobbies, as they approach the retirement age.
But it is often too late to start thinking about it then, as the physical limitations of age may constrain certain activities.
“What to do with the second half of one’s life?” asked Peter Drucker.
Forty years ago, in his book Management, Tasks and Responsibilities, he explained, “A manager has to be able to develop a life of his own, and outside the organization before he is in his mid-forties.
He needs this for himself, but he needs it also for the organization.
For the manager who, at age forty-five, retires on the job because he has no more interest in life, is not likely to make any further contribution to the business.
He owes it to himself – and to the business – to develop himself as a person.”
Many people only have vague ideas about their second life, such as, “I will be able to take it easy after I retire,” or, “I want to do some menial work in a small subsidiary company.”
Perhaps many believe this to be left-over time and treat it with an unhealthy disregard.
This question is particularly pertinent for Japanese society, as it has become the most aged – and long-lived – society in the world, with more than one quarter of its population aged over 65.
If Japan succeeds in bringing creative answers to this issue, it can also set examples of solutions for other rapidly aging societies such as the US, the UK, China, Korea and Hong Kong.