The Issues around the Phrase Work/Life Balance

The Issues around the Phrase Work/Life Balance

By: Robin Hills

One of the most impactful insights that I have had is how damaging the phrase “work/life balance” is. 

Misconceptions around work/life balance can develop false beliefs about what is required of them and set high standards for themselves, which can result in feelings of disappointment and low morale when these are not realised. 

The issue with the phrase “work/life balance” is that it compartmentalises everything into work activities – meetings, clients, trips, conferences – and life activities – family, commitments, holidays, hobbies, keeping healthy.

Think about it for a moment, the phrase is actually meaningless!  Life is not at one end of fulcrum with work on the other end.  Work is an integrated part of life.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, refers to the term work/life balance as a debilitating phrase and advises considering personal and professional pursuits as a circle rather than a balancing act.  He considers the concept as more work/life harmony, where work and life are integrated, instead of a trade-off between the two options.

You only have one life, you just happen to live some of it while working and some of it engaged in other activities. Like most people over the age of 20, work takes up a major proportion of your life and it has to be realistically integrated into all of your activities to give you a rich rewarding and meaningful focus.

Balance is what you make of it.  In truth, there is no actual balance between your work and home life – and that’s because pretty much nobody lives their life in a silo. Life ebbs and flows, and whatever you do, and however hard you try, there will be times when work creeps into your home life and vice versa.  

Whether it’s scheduling a meeting or checking your work email in the evening, taking a call at the weekend or booking a personal appointment at your desk – overlap is impossible to avoid. Also, you are likely to nearly always be thinking about work in some way as it is difficult to leave work issues behind when you leave a physical workspace.

Acknowledging that priorities intermingle is key to understanding the complexity of your life, and by being present in whatever you are doing at the moment will help you gain real balance. 

So, when you are at work, be present.  If you have an emergency that arises at home to deal with, make that call. When you are on holiday, enjoy it.  But if you need to contact your team, allocate time to deal with any issues – and then get back to enjoying your vacation. 

Work/life balance misconceptions create unhealthy, unachievable expectations. Achieving work-life balance, or harmony, or whatever you want to call it, is really about accepting that it is a myth. 

Understanding this will help you bypass undue stress and mental health issues, allowing you instead to operate from a calmer, recalibrated position. So, aiming for work/life harmony means that by seeing it as a whole, you will become more energised at work and more relaxed when at home.