Over the last 15 months, we’ve experienced a revolution when it comes to work life balance. No longer do we have the physical environment as a distinguishing factor to help us separate our lives into different modes. Technology had blurred the traditional work and personal life divide, but now we are not just working from home, we are living at work. The time is now ripe for redefining work life balance and what it means to us.
The term work life balance has become a cliché. For many, it’s an unachievable utopia and something to bemoan. In recent years, with technology allowing us to carry our work and networks around with us, the term work life blend became fashionable. What I’ve come to realise, especially in the last year, is that now it’s simply about balance. How balanced do I feel in the moment?
As I’ve often said, what’s the point in having work and personal life balanced, if the quality of both is poor. In metaphysics, balance is a point between opposing forces. I don’t like the idea of work and life being in opposition.
The reality of course is that for many people they are. Work is something to endure or tolerate as you live for the weekend, the next holiday and retirement. But it’s not really about work and life, just life, your life.
When I think of work life balance, I focus on the level of satisfaction and happiness I’m finding across all aspects of my life. My health, the hobbies I enjoy, my friendships, my spirituality, family dynamics, my marriage, finances and career. It’s not just the relationship between work and non-work, it’s taking a more holistic perspective.
The word ‘balance’ can make us think of everything being equal, being evenly distributed. Life is generally not this neat. This one dimensional, almost Marxist approach, can prompt the worthwhile question – how can my work life balance feel more equitable? However, If everything is allotted into timeslots or segments, the certainty and perceived security this generates, will over time lead to boredom, the same old same old and very soon we will feel stuck in a rut. I see balance as being fluid as opposed to static. Like life, there are cycles, the natural ebb and flow and constant change.
By taking a more fluid or flexible approach, we can recognise that there will be occasions when work requires more time and also periods when family, social life, or health requires greater time and attention.
Rather than seeing the relationship between work and personal life as a seesaw, it becomes multi-dimensional. Perhaps a more apt analogy is an orchestra that you get to conduct.
So if we are redefining work life balance as simply balance, what exactly does that mean? The metaphysics definition of opposing forces, brings to mind an equilibrium between tensions. We seek to find space between seemingly opposing commitments and contradictory objectives and agendas. We attempt to forge a path through competing demands on our time, attention and energy. Managing these tensions in a world where in theory we can work anywhere any time (or all the time!) is the challenge at the heart of redefining work life balance.
Over the last year, we’ve had the opportunity to reassess what’s most important to us. For many people their quality of life has improved by simply being able to spend more time with family as opposed to commuting. As hybrid professionals, we have the opportunity to contemplate what an equitable work life balance would look like, or more importantly, feel like?
What does balance mean to you? Is it feeling aligned, centered, calm, focused, in the zone? When I think of balance I think of inner peace. If I’m not balanced within myself, I’m bringing this misalignment into my interactions with others. Work life balance is not a one time, get it sorted activity. It’s not even weekly or daily, it’s moment by moment. Like autopilot on a plane, it’s not fixing all the controls in place, it’s making constant adjustments, responding to changing circumstances and external conditions. We have to practice paying attention, honing our awareness to self-assess before we can consciously make tweaks.
In Part 2 of this article on redefining work life balance, I’ll explore those ‘tensions’ we are seeking to balance, and in Part 3, how I endeavor to maintain balance in my life. But in closing reflect on the question – what does balance look like or feel like for me?
I hope you enjoyed this post and for more on this topic listen to my new podcast episode here where I explore what Work Life Balance means today. To ensure you don’t miss any of my latest news and updates I invite you to join my community by signing up for my monthly ezine below.