The Work-Life Balance Myth
And how you can re-envisage it
Whether it be the introduction of the 4-day week, or the ability to work remotely, the concept of work-life balance is always at the forefront.
It’s an over-simplistic notion that I’ve long felt needed re-envisioning.
Thinking about work and life as two opposing forces that need to be balanced, implies that work is equal to the other things happening in your life. Or alternatively, something that stands in the way of you living the rest of your life.
And whilst both of these scenarios might be the case at times, work is a part of life and not distinct from it.
I prefer to think of balance in the context of ‘life balance’. And rather than a set of two-sided scales, something more akin to the spinning top that keeps going without toppling over. To keep spinning, all elements, and things important to you, need to be in harmony.
Naturally, life isn’t always equally balanced to such a fine degree, and there will be times when your time or energy is weighted disproportionately to one side. But at some point, if you’re to keep spinning, you need to pull the balance back.
‘Work-life balance’ has become shorthand for something that means something entirely different to everyone.
The challenge for businesses is that they often invest millions into supporting staff to have a better life balance, with no real measure of whether it’s working, aside from snapshot anecdotal feedback.
What makes it particularly challenging is that a well balanced life means something different to every single one of us. It’s impossible to measure something that means something different to everyone at any given moment.
So, to help you reflect on what ‘life balance’ means to you and your business, here are this weeks thought provokers.
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Wise words: From a former Prime Minister. What insight can you draw from them when you think about your own life balance?
Measure: One of the challenges with describing ‘life balance’ as a goal is that what feels like a healthy life balance this week, might not feel the same next week; or next year. ‘Life balance’ risks becoming the destination never quite reached. And when goals are unattainable, frustration, disappointment, and feeling like a failure are common.
Think about how you measure the balance in your life.
What time frame do you attach to it? For example, is it based on your actions today, this week, this year or this decade?
Do you measure it based on how you feel, how you spend your time, your energy or something else?
What could be one measurable goal you could set for yourself today?
Model: The reality is that for many mid-lifers, work isn’t optional. However, there are things that you do have control over and where you have the influence to change them. Things that are beyond your control (in the circle of concern below) are the primary cause of frustration and stress - yet are unlikely to change no matter how much you try.
Instead, focus on those things that you have control over, and that you can play with to bring you closer to the balance that you really want. Think about your current life balance.
What is currently in your circle of control right now?
What causes you worry that you can’t control, no matter how much you try?
What shift is needed to expand what’s in your circle of control?
Scale: Whilst the current inflationary pressure may lead you to think differently, there are long-term signs that show having a good life balance is more valuable than pay. In fact, two-thirds of UK workers think work-life balance is more valuable than pay.
How clear are you on what life balance looks like for those you lead?
What would that look like in practice, day to day?
What is within your power - and theirs - to get them more of that?
Read: McKinsey’s detailed research points to same-gender couples managing their life balance much better than opposite-gender couples, where the challenge is often exacerbated by gender stereotypes.
What can you, and your business, learn from these findings?
Summarise: Complete this sentence.
I have a great life balance when…
And then take one decision, right now, that will take you one step closer to creating the result you want.
Last Weeks Issue: How to give yourself a giant push towards your goals this September in A Year Of Thirds
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