The Evolution of Work-Life Balance

Work Life BAlance Kosmopolites

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The current definition of Work-Life balance has nothing to do with its own term considered only ten years ago.

To be completely honest, although ten years could appear as a valuable time frame to construct the idea of Work-Life Balance, when we talk about the historical evolution of the concept we must go back to even more antecedent historical periods.

In fact, it’s born in the latest 1800s the first and real conceptual construction of the term Work-Life Balance. At the time, the first sort of thought about the term, vaguely matched the more current concept of work-Life Balance.

It was merely a hint in terms of the evolution of labor law. The approach was consolidated in the manufacturing industry, where the legislation at the time, chose to set certain limits in terms of working hours for two categories of workers: children and women.

It was meant to alleviate the methods of exploitation of this branch of population, allowing those classes considered weaker to avoid being crushed by the imposing machine of industrial capitalism. It was then in 1938 with the Fair Labor Standards Act, that weekly working hours were reduced to 44.

In 1980 the innovation that led to the development of the modern concept of Work-life balance, finally entered the scene. The author of this historical evolution in the complex legislative machine was a feminist historical movement that began in 1960 and stretched until 1980.

brown wooden gavel

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This was the Women’s Liberation Movement, which had an incredible influence on the historical panorama of the western world, becoming an indispensable source to develop the next culture in every branch (historical, philosophical, industrial etc…).

At that time, the female population was extremely enslaved by a life that had to be split between working career and family.

The necessity to take care of the family, had no way of reconciling with the development of an equivalent career.

The historical period that women had to live on their own skin, has developed two important modern concepts:

  • Flexibility of working hours
  • Maternity

Nowadays, these two benefits are recognized and assessed globally

However, to define the concept of Work-life balance as we have it today, it is necessary to wait for the twentieth century, when the opportunity to revise the entire legislation dedicated to Work-Life Balance has also allowed the male population to be concretely part of these rights.


Photo by Benny Jackson on Unsplash

The current concept of Paternity Leave is indeed a consequence of this century and currently the object of further changes and developments.

Sociologically, the current evolution of work-life balance concept has undergone some developments not to be underestimated. It seems to have developed an intense individual need to attain a status of satisfaction and coverage of one’s inner self, which in the past had no way of exploding with such naturalness.

The “old” society was growing in a decidedly different context than the modern one.

We currently live in a digital world where creative stimuli surround our lives daily, and the development of new needs of feeling happy and fully live our lives regardless of the job (which in 90% of cases we have not chosen) have reached an extraordinary power. This full concept can be introduced precisely by the modern definition of work-life balance.

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