Re-WORKING WORK: Achieving work life balance through workplace wellness

This article first published at The HR Agenda Magazine [October-December 2014 issue].

The Japanese spend far more time at work than anywhere else. Ironically, this Japanese “addiction” to excel at work even at the expense of personal well-being became instrumental in spurring an economic miracle for a country from postwar recovery. In recent years, however, the swelling ranks of dual income earners and single parents alike have been yearning for greater freedom and flexibility, not just in working hours but in terms of work arrangements and location.

The term work-life balance (WLB) is not new to the business community and since 1992 when it was first “invented,” a lot of definitions have been used (and misused) by people and organizations to fit their own contexts.

What is WLB? I believe that the simplest definition of WLB entails the attainment of both professional and personal goals, and of achievement and enjoyment. It is not a zero-sum game where one aspect must suffer to achieve the other. This may sound difficult but achieving balance is actually possible, if one is willing to make trade-offs and, most importantly, the necessary shift in mindset and attitude.

WLB is important because, as past studies show, employees are not exactly the only ones benefiting from these holistic employment practices. WLB programs nurture a more committed workforce, which by itself already has real money value and impacts the bottom line.

Throughout the years, companies of all shapes and sizes have tried to achieve WLB by introducing innovative practices and work arrangements such as the creation of flexible employment and workplace environments, flex-time, work-at-home, telecommuting (“Talent Mobility,” The HR Agenda, Sep-Dec 2013), and part-time jobs that put a premium on output instead of time.

WLB and Workplace Wellness In recent years, “Workplace Wellness” or Wellness is increasingly becoming a major component of any successful WLB initiative. This is because Wellness programs don’t only focus on an employee’s physical well-being but also deal with the emotional, mental, financial, and even spiritual well-being of employees. In short, Wellness is more holistic and personal to employees and when it is up close and personal to them, behaviors, mindsets, and attitudes can change for the better.

If you are interested in learning more on how Wellness programs can help give your WLB initiatives a boost, this issue of The HR Agenda is for you. Read on and get insights on what other companies are doing to improve their workplace wellness in ways that matter to their employees and the bottom line.

However, the most important thing to remember is that WLB and Wellness must be made into a “personal” philosophy – one that requires passion, commitment, discipline, and as previously mentioned, a change in mindset and attitude. In other words, if the individual himself does not have a strong desire to attain work-life balance or well-being, no government/ company policy or program will ever work.

"Wellness programs don’t only focus on an employee’s physical well-being but also deal with the emotional, mental, financial, and even spiritual well-being of employees."

This issue marks a significant milestone for The HR Agenda as this is the first issue for our new editor in chief, Atley Jonas (read his Editor’s Note) to be in the driver’s seat and begin to take the magazine to its next stage of growth and development. In fact, one of the first things he’s introducing to the magazine is the “Mail Bag” column to solicit feedback, comments, or suggestions from the reading public so that we can give you a better reading experience. Hence, please join us in not only welcoming him to the team but also let him know of what you think. Send him an email at He is more than happy to respond to your feedback and suggestions. Who knows, we might even feature your letter in a future issue of the magazine.

Also, as part of our commitment to continuous improvement, starting this issue, the HRA Editorial will be replaced by a new OpEd column where we invite subject matter experts from the JHRS community as well as key opinion leaders from the general HR profession (domestic or international) to give their views or opinions on a particular HR topic/ theme featured in the magazine. We hope that by doing this, we can better engage members of the JHRS community, Japan-focused HR professionals worldwide, and of course, you as our valued reader.

Kudos to the organizers and participants of the 66th SHRM Annual Conference and Expo held at Orlando, Florida, U.S. last June 22-25 and the 3rd HR Japan Summit 2014 held at Chinzanso Hotel in Tokyo, Japan last July 9-10. The HR Agenda Magazine is proud to be a media partner to these well-organized and successful HR events. Read the related articles, pictures, and YouTube videos about these events at the JHRS Community News section. Interested in having The HR Agenda be your media partner for your HR event/conference? Contact us at

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