The Trend Toward Life – Work Balance

Editor’s Note: We bring you another selected edition of the Herman Trend Alert here at Small Business Trends. The Herman Group writes about the movement in the United States over the past decade toward more balance between life – work. The concept applies equally to entrepreneurs as it does to employees — more and more people it seems want life to come before work.

Herman Trend Alert

For many years, money was the primary motivator to a substantial majority of employees. Employers did not demonstrate that they really wanted anything more than do-what-you-are-told-labor in return for money paid in wages and salaries. And workers were satisfied to do the work, then periodically demand more money.

Gradually we moved from money to money and benefits. Employees were lured, placated, and retained with money … plus health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance — then childcare, petcare, and concierge services. Eventually, faced with rising costs, employers asked employees to share in the rising costs.

Interestingly, the movement is now not toward higher monetary compensation, fringe benefits, or negotiated cost-sharing. Employees are seeking what we might call compensation of a different nature. They want something more for themselves; they want control of their time. They want balance. Not work-life balance, but life-work balance. Life comes first today for more and more people.

More research is being conducted to learn more about what people want in their lives. As more organizations and researchers discover the richness of attitudes and beliefs that underlie the significant shifts taking place, we expect to see the frequency of studies increasing. One example: Nearly half of 2,586 workers surveyed last year by Yankelovich Monitor felt they are devoting too much energy to work and too little in “other things in life that really matter”. And 28 percent of all workers polled said they would take a pay cut to get more time off.

The movement, which we have been watching for a while, is based on a growing awareness of personal values. More people, in their work environment, are basing work and life decisions on personal and organizational values. People are talking about values with their co-workers and their employers. We saw this trend emerging almost a decade ago when we conducted the research that led to our book, “Lean & Meaningful.”

Employers and employees are moving to a more meaningful culture, an environment that emphasizes meaning and contribution in each person’s job. Each role in the organization will take on new importance, giving workers reasons to join and remain.

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Reproduced with permission. From “Herman Trend Alert,” by Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurists, copyright 2006. (800) 227-3566 or


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

7 Reactions
  1. I couldn’t agree more with this post. Balance is where it’s at. It’s where it’s going to be for the conceivable future as well, as we want it all…and we want it now…and we want it on our terms. I’m willing to work a lot of hours if something needs to get done, but I also want the ability if I need to leave early to tend to a family matter that I can. I’m willing to work from home to get the job done, and am glad to do so, provided I can get a Friday off for training. It’s only fair really, if you ask me.

    Thankfully, my manager gets this BIG TIME!. She knows I’ll give her everything I’ve got whenever I’m able, and when I’m not able to, I tell her so, and she helps me get through it.

  2. Life Balance has always been vital to the happiness, health, confidence and quality of relationships to people. It is only recently that the importance of Life Balance has begun to be recognized and accepted in the US. Many European countries and cultures have stressed the importance of life balance in all aspects of life for years. As an example, just try to find people working in Spain during their mid day siestas. The trend to discovering and creating life balance has been long overdue in the US and is finally gaining strong momentum here. Hooray!

    More and more of our at clients The Coach Connection are choosing and achieving their coachable goals of discovering and obtaining their own unique Life Balance through life coaching. Our Entrepreneur and business owner clients are using life and business coaches to design their businesses to include having life balance as part of becoming successful business owners. And low and behold they even create more successful businesses with less time and effort on their part. They have proven that by incorporating Life Balance into their business designs, the businesses prosper even more.

  3. Phil and Bill,

    Yes, this theme of life – work balance strikes a chord with many. I know it did for me. That’s one of the reasons I made my own lifestyle and work change a few years ago.

    I was simply worn out from spending so many hours a day on a corporate job. Day after day, it wore me down, like a knife against a grindstone. Instead of becoming sharper, I felt I was becoming duller. It became hard to make decisions. And I had no time to think — really think.

    For better or for worse, now my time is my own. I am pretty disciplined and still work hard — in some ways harder — but I always know in the back of my mind that if I wanted to take the day off and drive to Pennsylvania to visit my family, I could do so. And not feel guilty.


  4. hello. im doing a project on the australian work place trends and i have no idea what i have to do. can some1 please point me in the right direction please

    thank you
    from des10989