In a workforce in which employees often are instructed to do more with less, it seems "work-life balance" has become almost synonymous with job satisfaction.
This three-word phrase is now the ultimate goal in the game of employment -- but the concept means different things to different people.
"Flexibility is the main thing that professionals need to find work-life balance," said Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO
of FlexJobs.com. "It's important that companies offer
different types of flexibility to meet each employee's needs. Options like flexible schedules, job sharing, part-time hours, telecommuting, compressed workweeks and banking flextime can be combined so that each employee is able to craft his or her job to have work-life balance."
While flexibility is undeniably the key player, other important work-life balance attributes include autonomy, support and resources, an environment that fosters family involvement in the workplace, good benefits, investment in the employee's future, being valued at the workplace and low job-related stress, according to Mary A. Molloy, a work/life balance speaker and best-selling author of "Design Your Own Destiny -- Life Planning for the 21st Century" and "The Buck Starts Here -- Profit Based Sales and Marketing Made Easy."
Because each profession comes with its own positive and negative aspects, Molloy says it's important for each person to look at how a specific job will affect all aspects of their lives -- intellectually, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
"There are no hard and fast rules because it is dependent on the company, the situation and the individual," Molloy said. "When we look at work-life balance, we must ask ourselves how the work will impact a person's personal life and vice versa."
But if you are looking for a career that levels the playing field between the office and the time you spend away from it, here is a list of eight of the best jobs known for their exceptional work-life balance attributes.
A research analyst
conducts research, provides support, maintains and analyzes records and compiles reports, completing much of the legwork required for government agencies and businesses to make informed decisions about the future.
Balance-friendly qualities: If flexibility is high on your list of desired work-life balance attributes, consider working as a research analyst. People with this job often enjoy a self-managed schedule, which allows you the freedom to choose when you work and don't work.
"Research is continually one of the most common telecommuting jobs because it can easily be done from home, and this type of job regularly offers a flexible schedule," Fell said.
Average annual income:
$67,130. Operations research analysts earn a mean
annual wage of $78,840.
Job Description: Teachers manage their own classrooms with support services provided by their school. Teachers also enjoy a set salary and benefits.
Balance-friendly qualities: Time-wise, Molloy said a teaching job offers a great deal of freedom in terms of vacation time during summers and seasonal breaks. Additionally, more private elementary and secondary schools are offering virtual classes and hiring virtual teachers to teach them, Fell said. With part-time placements available, teachers can pick up several classes at a time depending on their work-life balance needs.
HUMAN RESOURCES ASSISTANT
A human resources assistant
compiles and keeps personnel records and data such as addresses, weekly earnings
, absences, amount of sales or production and supervisory reports. HR assistants also prepare reports for employee records and furnish information to authorized persons.
Balance-friendly qualities: Human resources assistants and other administrative roles make up a large portion of available flexible jobs, Fell said.
"They tend to offer a variety of flexible options like part-time hours, telecommuting or flexible scheduling," she said. Human resource positions are sometimes offered on a part-time basis with a flexible 20- to 25-hour weekday schedule.
Average annual income: $38,330
A freelance insurance inspector
travels to different locations to gather property and automobile information related to damage claims and insurance eligibility assessments. They conduct surveys, measure and calculate square footage, create diagrams, take digital photographs and generate reports. Often, no specialized education is required to become an insurance inspector, but some employers prefer a bachelor's degree in environmental health/safety.
Balance-friendly qualities: For people who don't like to work in an office all day long, insurance inspection jobs offer a chance to spend the bulk of your time away from the office, either on location or working from home, Fell said.
Average annual income: $59,080
This is a general term for a worker who does not commit to any one employer. You might work as a writer, a CPA
, a marketing specialist or a graphic designer, for example.
Balance-friendly qualities: The advantage of being a freelancer is that you can take on only projects you like and then work at your own pace. This is the ultimate job for flexibility and autonomy but it lacks a guaranteed salary, benefits and workload.
"With life, many things are a trade-off," Molloy said. "In this case, you're trading off your time freedom for benefits and retirement savings."
: The main goal for someone in this position is to get customers interested in a product. Sales reps
must be able to market merchandise and they often travel to attend trade shows and conferences to remain on top of developing products and changing consumer needs.
Balance-friendly qualities: If you have an enthusiastic personality, this is a great job in terms of time freedom as well as benefits and retirement savings.
"A sales rep needs to be able to deal with rejection and the pressure of making quota," Molloy said. "He or she needs to be able to think on his or her feet and be persuasive and articulate."
If you can do that, then this profession can be promising.
Average annual income:
$60,340, but sales representatives who sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers where technical or scientific knowledge is required (biology, engineering, chemistry and electronics) earn an average annual salary of $85,750
Description: An IT specialist provides technical assistance to computer users and answers questions or resolves computer problems for clients in person, via telephone or electronically.
Balance-friendly qualities: If you have a solid grasp on how computers work and a decent amount of patience for helping others learn the same, this job offers good life balance because of its high potential for autonomy as well as some time freedom. Often, in companies that work with virtual teams, this work can be done from home.
"This is ideal because it provides the benefits of working from home, the time freedom to come and go as needed and the financial security of benefits and retirement savings," Molloy said.
An educational background in accounting
is often required for a staff accountant
who would perform a wide range of general accounting activities in this position.
"Accounting is a fantastic job category for work-life balance," Fell said. "The field has a steady flow of work opportunities, and many employers offer
the ability to work from home, so even during the busy tax season
, accounting can still be flexible."
Average annual income: $70,130
The Investing Answer: No matter what career you choose, work-life balance is about juggling the trade-offs between the time you spend working and the time you spend living. Work-life balance really boils down to finding out how you can best maximize your talents and skills while getting the most return on your investment: your time.