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Balancing act: Here's why 2015 was 'the year of work-life balance'

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 5 2016 7:05 a.m. MST

I may be biased, but as I reflect on 2015, I believe it was the year in which the issue of work-life balance gained the momentum it will need to become a primary topic of business conversation for years to come.

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I've been a weekly business columnist for the Deseret News for almost 14 years, and I've covered lots of different issues during that time.

When I started, I wrote about whatever business-related topic struck my fancy on a particular week, from advertising during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City to my experiences with "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day."

Then I spent several years answering readers' questions about personal finance. I particularly enjoyed that time as I felt I was able to help people while also working with some outstanding financial advisers and other professionals.

For the last four-plus years, I've focused on a topic that's important to me personally and professionally: work-life balance. When I started writing about this issue, it was in the news a bit, but it wasn't something discussed with great frequency.

My, how times have changed.

I may be biased, but as I reflect on 2015, I believe it was the year in which the issue of balance gained the momentum it will need to become a primary topic of workplace conversation for years to come.

And I'm not the only person who thinks this is the case.

I often quote surveys from FlexJobs, an online service for professionals who are seeking telecommuting, flexible schedule, part-time and freelance jobs. Obviously, FlexJobs has a vested interest in promoting work-life balance, but the experts who work there also have a ton of knowledge about changes in the workforce.

Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, said in a press release late last month that she also feels flexible work is "gaining great momentum," as shown through an increase in telecommuting and in the number of organizations that support flexible work options.

"Telecommuting and other types of work flexibility are starting to have a much-needed impact on the 21st-century workplace, and there is no sign of it slowing down," she said in the press release. "Flexible work will not only play a significant role in the future of work, it will be a key differential of successful employers.”

To back up this claim, FlexJobs offered five flexible work statistics from 2015. I reported on several of these during the year, but I like the perspective I gained from seeing them all in one place.

Specifically, FlexJobs noted that:

• "Occasional telecommuting is on the rise." Gallup's annual Work and Education poll showed that the average professional will telecommute about two days each month, and telecommuting has increased by about 30 percent during the past decade.

I actually telecommute less for the job I started in mid-2015 than I did in my previous occupation, but many of my friends are working from home more now than they ever have before. I've also seen lots of different companies take steps to make telecommuting easier, which is a welcome change.

• "At-home employees continue to increase steadily." GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com analyzed work-at-home population data since 2005 and found 103 percent growth in telecommuting, including a 6.5 percent increase in 2014 alone. A FlexJobs survey showed that 76 percent of respondents said they avoided the office when they needed to get important work done.

Members of my team often ask if they can work from home when they need to concentrate on writing a report or pushing through some research. I've found their productivity is generally high when they do, so this result didn't surprise me at all.

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