This past June, HARC held their annual Workplace Wellness Symposium entitled, “We’re all in this together – Navigating Through Changing Times.” The virtual event featured four experts on the topics of work-life balance, diversity equity and inclusion, stress management at work and much more. This valuable program is beneficial to anyone managing a team and still available online for all to access. 

This editorial summarizes key findings about work-life balance from keynote speaker Mark Agars, PhD, a professor of psychology and director of the Institute for Child Development and Family Relations (ICDFR) at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB).

“We are all here for the same underlying reason: work experience matters for the personal health and wellbeing of each of us and the ones we love…but it’s been a struggle,” states Dr. Agars. He discusses the history of work values and explains how it is common to over value work in comparison to health, family, hobbies, etcetera. “We have not been good at protecting ourselves from work demands, or in fostering healthy relationships around work due to organizational expectations, societal pressures, internalized values.” 

He also highlights the consequences of work stress on personal health: psychological strain, anxiety, depression, alcohol and substance abuse, as well as its effect on family and life:  satisfaction with life, marital and family satisfaction, quality parent-child relationships and sometimes, domestic violence. 

Agars explains, the first step in changing this overvalue in work is awareness; one must be proactive in prioritizing health and well-being. Another important step is redefining what success means to us, which may have different meanings depending on a person’s priorities and values in life. 

He also acknowledges that change is hard, “the systems that are set up in work and society are strong; personal habits are hard to break…and then COVID came.” COVID was a major disruption to long established systems and norms around work and gave full reconsideration of when, where and how work can be done. In addition, the pandemic also brought individual awakenings and reconsideration of personal priorities. With these changes, COVID has brought challenges to employers such as difficulty recruiting new employees and trouble retaining current ones. 

After reviewing challenges and struggles, Agars concludes his presentation by providing examples on how leaders can support employees by supporting flexibility; providing  variety and passion opportunities; listening, remaining open and providing space for voice; providing opportunities for social connection; protecting privacy; emphasizing psychological safety and health, and being intentional with compensation. 

The keynote presentation is followed by three breakout sessions covering: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Unlocking the Opportunity (presented by John Epps); Practical Solutions for Negotiating Work-Life Balance at the Workplace and in your Home (Casey Leier and Mark Agars); A Leader’s Guide to Building a Resilient and Happy Team (Felicia Zigman).

Anyone managing a team or wellness in their workplace is encouraged to view the symposium on HARC’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/c/HarcIncPalmDesert.

Amairani Ramos is a research and evaluation assistant with HARC, Inc. For more information visit www.Harcdata.org.

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