If there's one thing Americans aren't strangers to, it's hard work. An estimated 40% of U.S. employees typically put in more than 50 hours each week on the job, while 20% put in more than 60 hours. And let's not forget our collective tendency to log on after hours, check work emails on weekends, and follow up on projects when we're supposed to be away on vacation.

But while it's one thing to go the extra mile at work, it's another thing to completely give up all semblance of a personal life in an effort to do well and get ahead. And unfortunately, the majority of U.S. adults seem to be doing the latter, so much so that only 30% of current workers are satisfied with their work-life balance, according to a new FlexJobs survey. That's down from 45% when the same survey was conducted three years ago.

Man sitting at a desk in an office, rubbing his eyes

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What's perhaps more disturbing, however, is that 86% of workers claim that job-related demands impact their ability to take care of their health. And ironically, the worse physical shape we let ourselves fall into, the greater our chances of needing to take more sick time, thus negatively impacting our performance.

But if there's a silver lining here, it's that there may be a solution to our collective struggle: flexible work arrangements. And the sooner companies get wise to that, the greater their chances of retaining solid workers and getting more out of them.

Workers need some leeway

Though work-life balance is clearly something Americans on a whole are failing to attain, 94% agree that having more flexibility on the job will have a positive impact on their personal lives, while 89% think it'll help them take better care of themselves. And among those with children living at home, 95% feel that having a flexible job will help make them better parents.

The beauty of flexible work arrangements is that they can run the gamut from telecommuting privileges to the option to leave early several nights a week. Some companies even allow employees to compress their workweeks into four days rather than five, to allow them more time with their families or to tend to personal obligations.

Of course, flexibility is the sort of privilege that employees frequently need to earn; they can't necessarily expect to start a new job and instantly be granted the option to work from home or to leave early twice a week. But workers with a strong performance history and record should be granted some leeway, especially if they're key contributors whose efforts yield consistent results.

Not only might granting workers more flexibility inspire them to do better, but they're also more likely to reciprocate when the need truly arises. For example, an employee might hesitate to pick up the phone on a Sunday to address an emergency, knowing full well he'll need to be back at his desk at 8 a.m. the following day. But if that employee has a flexible arrangement wherein he gets to choose his own hours -- with the caveat, of course, that he adhere to deadlines -- he might be more generous with his time outside regularly scheduled hours.

If there's one takeaway for companies here, it's that Americans are struggling to do it all, and need help striking a balance. And those that offer the most flexibility are likely to find that it goes both ways. From an employee perspective, a flexible work arrangement could spell the difference between enjoying both life and work, or falling short in both regards. And that's reason enough to be more vocal about snagging some added leeway.

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