Work/Life Balance – Myth or Something Else

work/life balance as teeter-totterDuring last week’s chat, we discussed  emerging workplace trends.  But what is really underneath the desire to telecommute, inclusive workplaces or even how the space is designed? From the employee’s perspective and probably even the individual executive’s perspective, these trends are happening because people are want their work and life to be more fulfilling..

What is work/life balance supposed to be anyway?

Most people believe that it is a fairly even split in how you devote your time to work and to the rest of your life. There is a sense of achievement and satisfaction in how you structure your days leading to excellent health and well-being.

The reality is that we are at work for the majority of our days and have to fit in the rest of our lives around our work schedule. There is generally very little balance unless you are very lucky or independently wealthy.

A teeter-totter or woven fabric

With the Eurozone crisis continuing and other economies not recovering as we had hoped, there is apprehension and pressure to do more work with less resources. If people are doing this work, does work/life balance exist? Scott Eblin doesn’t believe in it. He writes:

By seeking a rhythm, you acknowledge there are times when the pace is much more oriented to work and there are the times when the counterpoints of the other aspects of your life come to the fore….Instead, you recognize all of the factors that come together to create the rhythm of your life – your life at work, your life at home, your life in your community. You identify and act on the simple routines that support the outcomes you’re looking for in those three arenas of life. They’re the routines that keep you physically strong, mentally acute, relationally healthy and spiritually grounded.”

It is unlikely that people in the workplace are able to balance their days so each segment of their lives gets attention. The teeter-totter model may be creating a ideal that simply cannot be real life. The model of developing a rhythm between work and life might be more realistic. However, there is still the question of whether we’re developing a culture that denies workers at all levels an existence beyond work.

Are we really expecting everyone to just work 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

Now it has been going on for years that people carry their laptops, smartphones and tablets so they can instantly be connected to their office. There is this belief that if you unplug from your workplace, it will be interpreted as slacking. If you are in a lower-level position and want to take time off from work for a family event or an appointment, you risk being passed over for promotions or fired. Does anyone else think this might be insanity?

Maybe it’s hard to feel sorry for C-level executives when they complain about the amount of pressure that they endure. On the other hand, how did companies exist and thrive before we had all this technology that allows us to be “in the office” no matter what? In a recent Reuters article, it featured Oscar Gomez Barbero, chief technology office at Prisa, a Spanish and Portuguese-language business group in the fields of education, information and entertainment and he seems to exemplify the notion that once you’re in the  c-suite, your time is no longer your own. You must respond to your organization any time.

Is work/life balance becoming a myth?

Maybe the emerging workplace trends do point to a rhythm or an integration of work and non-work activities. Yet, with all of the technology that connects us, there is a creeping sensation that everyone (not just upper-level executives and business owners) has to be connected more to their workplace and less to other parts of their lives. There seems to be a mythology that if we could add something or let go of something, we could feel the balance. It could very well be that we understand more clearly that work/life balance cannot exist and we’re seeking an alternative way to work and live.

How do you understand work/life balance?

How do the emerging workplace trends support work and life being more integrated?

What kind of culture is being developed globally that allows work to creep into non-working time?

What are the potential ramifications of this workplace culture?

Do we need a new concept that describes how our working lives and our non-working lives can bring satisfaction, fulfillment and achievement?

*Join us this Friday on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz as we discuss this topic. The conversation begins at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT

 

 

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  1. Pingback: What Is This Brou-ha-ha About “Having It All”? | Kaizen Biz

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