Just to clarify, I’m not a pessimist. I’m not even a realist. I’m a full-blown, in your face, Americanesque optimist. I’ve been described as “recklessly optimistic”. So what’s my issue with work-life balance? The terminology.
Work-life balance implies there’s a work-self, and a life-self, and never the two shall meet. That’s not how we as human beings work. There is just “self”. I am one person, and you are one person. We can’t flick a switch and go from work-mode to life-mode. Companies encourage you to “bring yourself to work”… how could we do it any differently? Who else are we going to bring?
What I mean by that is: do I differ in the way I speak to my boss, my team and my children? Sure I do. But at the heart of it, it’s still me. I’m just flexing certain characteristics for the appropriate audience at a moment in time.
Back to work-life balance, and why it doesn’t work. If you agree that there is simply “self” – and let’s be honest if you don’t agree I’ve already lost you at this point – then it makes sense to think that we take life stuff to work and we take work stuff home. It’s fluid.
Life permeates our work and vice versa. And for all the good that technology has done, there’s hard evidence that shows as we’ve adopted work phones and remote working, working hours have gotten longer.
It’s a nice buzzword for companies to demonstrate their support for employees, whilst potentially not giving the framework or tools to enable success. Work-life balance meant shutting down the desktop computer at 5pm to enjoy “family time”, whereas now we’re taking that computer home in our pocket.
So what do we do to re-address the balance? We change the conversation. We stop talking about work-life balance and instead focus on balance. Plain and simple: balance.
Balance understands that in today’s world life and work are more blended than ever before. Balance understands that I work in the evenings, so in the mornings I’ll turn up after dropping the kids at school. Balance understands that time is more precious than ever before, so introduces “core working hours”. Balance understands that work and life are both important.
We’re trying to balance work as a part of our lives. This is why balance is so important. You could argue it’s just words. Terminology. Linguistics. Semantics. Whilst I’d disagree, I get it. But even if that were true, words are powerful.
Once we understand that, we can then help to shape the conversation towards what really all of this is about. Happiness.