The work life is balance is a concept that is constantly being sold to us. In particular in today’s context of increased pressure and burnout, we are all running after it as if it were some sort of treasure. Countless articles are out there telling us how to find it, in fact I myself wrote one a few years ago.
When we interview, we want to know what the work life balance is like at the prospect employer’s. Companies that are under fire for toxic cultures are criticized for their lack of work life balance. And I even heard that you can be asked questions to test your work life balance, or should I say, how much overtime you will work. Shocking, but true!
But one day someone said to me, “why does it have to be so binary? Isn’t it just about balance in general?” and that really got me thinking…
What do we really mean when we say “work-life balance”? Have you every really stopped to consider what that means to you? Here are several things I think it could represent:
- Reclaim my life from work. Stop working long hours and weekends, feel like the workload is piling up and spiraling out of control. Learn to say no and not take on more and more tasks. Whatever it may be, just stop letting work take over.
- Spend more time/increase the time I spend doing things I like that aren’t related to work. This could be anything from sports, to reading, cooking, spending time with friends, etc. And it doesn’t mean you have to work less to do so, it means realizing those things matter to you.
- Spend more time with my family. For those who are parents (and even those who aren’t) sometimes you may feel like you aren’t spending enough time with your family because of work commitments. If this is important to you, maybe you want to carve out time specifically for that.
- Take ownership of your career. If you feel that things aren’t going the way you want, you’re stuck in a rut, you’re not progressing… Have you asked yourself how much of that is down to you? Have you thought about what you could do to change it? It could be that by taking greater ownership of your role and your career, the way you view work might shift.
- Working fewer hours. Perhaps for you this means working part-time: 80%, 50%, or as a freelance, whatever the formula may be. This could be a way for you to still work, but have more free time to do other things such as travel, study, or whatever else you want to do.
- Understand your priorities. What matters to you? Maybe work is the priority so you’re willing to put in extra hours. Or maybe you have several things in addition to work that you want to do. Start by understanding what those things are, so you can decide how to prioritize them.
- Have a side hustle. Maybe you want to start a side hustle and you need to spend less time doing work for your employer (after the mandatory time of course) and more time focusing on getting it off the ground.
No matter which of the above might represent “work-life balance” to you, it’s important to take time to think before we go in search of it, or before we start demanding it from our employers. Perhaps it really is just about balance overall in our lives, a way to fit in everything we want to without feeling totally frazzled. Is it really work that drives this search for balance, or is it our constant quest for more in everything we do?
What about you, what do you think work life balance means?