5 reasons why Africans find it hard to create a work life balance

Finding a work-life balance is one of the most uphill battles any adult could potentially face. Often, people get so caught up with work that they fail to make time for other equally important things. Family, friends, and leisure become secondary and, in extreme cases, obsolete.

Some are intuitive enough to understand the damage inflicted when work becomes one’s utmost priority, but they have chosen to live with the consequences. At the same time, others caught in the web of the never-ending cycle of labor are not even aware of the harm they are inflicting on themselves.

Be it to meet a personal financial target or attain a higher position in one’s career, working adults tend to encounter or periodically encounter work that steals something precious from them.

Regardless of what level you are in your career, finding a work-life balance is essential. For some, this necessity has become a luxury they simply can’t afford, while some have dismissed finding a balance as inessential. Luckily, such narratives are untrue, as you can still have a pleasant and relaxed life outside of work that doesn’t affect productivity at work.

There are steps people could take to find that ever elusive work-life balance, but before anyone can implement these steps, it is important to understand the genesis of this issue. Below is a list of five things that hinder Africans from finding a balanced work-life.

  • The illusion of more work, more reward: Bill Gates once said, “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” In Africa, the reverse seems to be the case as people still hold firmly to the belief that tenacity is a worker’s most valuable asset. While tenacity is downright necessary for success, creativity and ingenuity are far more valuable tools. Most Africans believe that the harder you work, the more your reward, but this narrative is dismissible. In this fast-paced, tech-driven era, your output rather than input is the metric you would be judged by, and output is determined by one’s ability to procure a business solution, not by how many hours one puts in. 
  • Social interaction: It is common knowledge that humans are social creatures and are in constant pursuit of any form of interaction. These interactions come from their classmates in school for teenagers, pre-teens, and young adults. Once a person is done with their tuition, they are left with very few institutions that offer a space for peer-to-peer communications. This is where social clubs and institutions like churches come in. Unfortunately, this is not enough for some as they begin to form close-knit relationships with co-workers. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it makes it difficult to separate work from life, if after work you still choose to hang out with the same people you just spent all your working hours with. 
  • Lack of other interests: With the current socio-economic climate in Africa, people find it hard to pour their energy into something that doesn’t immediately yield any returns. For westerners, this is far from the case as people can pick up interests ranging from hiking to surfing to tree shaping, painting, and even collecting limited edition paraphernalia. Nothing seems to be off the table, as long as it is in good clean fun. There are even communities for different enthusiasts, such as book clubs. In Africa, however, there seem to be reservations about such things; for example, you wouldn’t find much comic book collectors in the motherland. Such things are simply not that important. However, distractions like that serve as leisure and ease the stress of everyday life.
  • Culture: Africa is deep-rooted in its cultures and heritages. In most African cultures, people are rewarded for doing the most. Tenacious people are given more responsibility and more authority. Those striving for a higher status in the community want to put in more work. This, coupled with the narrative that more work yields more profit, propel ambitious Africans to make their work an inseparable part of their lives.
  • Labor laws: While this is getting better at an impressive rate, labor laws in most African nations are still playing catch up. Barring extreme cases, most Africans would not go to court because their superiors told them to work extra hours, they rather just do it, or quit. This stifled the enforcement of labor laws, as most Africans don’t report terrible working conditions and as such has not allowed for a proper work culture revolution in Africa. 

If these fundamental problems can be studied extensively, and fixed, it would make Africa one of the most conducive places to work.

*The views expressed here is the opinion of an editor at Business Insider Africa. It does not represent the views of the organisation Business Insider Africa.

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