The term work-life balance has become a buzz phrase over the last few years. It seems all everyone wants to do is strike the perfect ‘balance’ between work life and personal life. When that happens, they will become magically happy, at peace with the world, and will be free from stress. Suddenly you’ll be a model employee, employer, your spouse will praise you, and all the obligations in your life will be adequately fulfilled.
A New Look
But a bold new outlook is challenging this notion. Is work-life balance even the point? Some argue no, it’s not. The term balance implies that one dedicates an equal portion of time to work and to life. For most of us, this simply isn’t possible. The phrase work-life effectiveness, not balance, suggests striving for a situation where work fits easily with other aspects of your life.
For maximum effectiveness in all areas of your life, why not blend, as much as possible, your major daily tasks. For some companies, telecommuting on occasion is an option or half day work arrangements here and there. Perhaps you incorporate exercise at lunch or commit to only working a certain number of hours each week.The American trend we are seeing is that the traditional division between work and home is slipping away.
The Harvard Business Review article, Work-Life Balance Isn’t the Point covers this shift. Catalyst, a research firm focused on women in business expands on this concept by saying that work and personal life should be allies and that participation in multiple roles, such as parent, partner, friend, employee, can actually enhance physical and psychological well-being — especially when all of the roles are high quality and managed together.
When navigating this new way of thinking, something to consider is how you define success. Do you only feel successful when you are rewarded with a raise at work, a promotion, or recognized for implementing a new idea? Perhaps you need to dig deeper for your personal definition of success. It’s different for everyone, and while praise and recognition at work feels great and is vital to your growth in your career, it’s merely one avenue through which an individual can feel success.
Ryan Smith, co-founder of Qualtrics, manages his success by doing the following: “Each week, I examine the categories of my life — father, husband, CEO, self — and identify the specific actions that help me feel successful and fulfilled in these capacities. This weekly ritual helps me feel like I’m doing everything in my power to address my needs and the needs of those around me. This is important because I can’t lose sight of the business agenda, and we’ve all seen or read about what it looks like when you lose sight of your family’s needs.”
Maintaining a calm work/life effectiveness is not a simple feat. A good suggestion is to maintain control. High levels of stress are a bi-product of feeling out of control. Take control of your career, as well as different aspects in your life. Explore your own motivation, preferences, history and biases. Determine if you spend a lot or a little time at work because it’s something you passionately like or do not like. If you truly love your job, long hours are not necessarily burdensome to you, thus they don’t create problems in your work/life effectiveness. If the long hours you are working are affecting other aspects of your life negatively, set boundaries and limit the scope of work you’re willing to do.
Blending the perfect symphony of work and regular life is challenging and beautiful. We should see ourselves as whole and integrated people, not splintered and compartmentalized. Don’t let work consume you. It can breakdown your health, your relationships, and your sanity. Determine what is important to you in your work life and your personal life, and give what you can to each, without compromising the other.
Share with us ways that you blend your work and home life for a stress free mind. Post below.