Work-Life Balance Redefined

September 29, 2009 by Rose Cook

With FlexPro’s focus on flexible work and work-life balance, I hear many different perspectives on the concept of “work-life balance”.  Anything from “Balance is bunk,” to “Yeah, right. There’s no such thing, ” to “Someday, that would be wonderful.”
 
Many people don’t see this balance as achievable.  But, why?  Could it be because the idea of balance conjures up a picture of a scale where both sides must be equal?  Where more weight on one side necessarily means less weight on the other?

To further reinforce this picture, Dictionary.com defines “work-life balance” as “the achievement of equality between time spent working and one’s personal life.”  Equality?  I argue that’s not what most people are after.

Though today’s schoolteachers would probably disagree with my source, I much prefer the Wikipedia definition which defines “work-life balance” as “a broad concept including proper prioritizing between career and ambition on one hand, compared with pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development on the other.”  Proper prioritizing doesn’t require equality, but rather, suggests an element of personal choice.

Work-life balance is not about “equal” balance.  It’s not about getting to a 50/50 split.  It’s not about work versus life.  Trying to achieve an equal amount of hours on each side is unrealistic.  This concept also doesn’t fit well into today’s modern society where work and life are so intertwined.  Especially with today’s technology tools, it’s almost impossible to divide our lives into these discrete work and life buckets anymore.  Life is work.  Work is life.  It’s all you!

Maybe we should call it work-life blending or work-life harmony.  The key is no matter what the terminology, it’s a very personal definition, and it’s different for each individual.  What’s important is your satisfaction with your choices.  Your personal definition of work-life balance will also change depending on your life stage.

When my kids were younger, I worked a 3-day/week schedule for several years.  Was ideal at that time in my life and gave me the work-life balance that was right for me back then.  Today, a 3-day/week schedule would probably leave me unfulfilled in my work life.  I get lots of satisfaction from my work and don’t have the same family demands as when I had toddlers to care for.  In fact, I probably work more hours than ever, but it’s my schedule flexibility that gives me that satisfaction and balance.

So, I’ll leave you with these thoughts….

Next time you hear the term “work-life balance”, erase that picture of the scale from your mind, and forget about “equality.”  Ask yourself:  “What would increase my satisfaction with both work and life?”   Don’t just think narrowly in terms of hours at work or at home.  You may achieve that ideal work-life balance simply by working more flexibility into your current workday or workweek.
Work-life balance.  Redefined.
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