Meta description: Most people think of work-life balance as the concept of being able to split work and personal life with the aim of creating a 50-50 balance. Yet this is completely unachievable in the real world. What really is work-life balance? Find out.
Work-life balance is top of the most modern employee’s list of life priorities. However, if you think about it, what really is work-life balance? Most people think of work-life balance as the concept of being able to split work and personal life with the aim of creating a 50-50 balance. You need to understand that this definition fits an ideal world where everything can be measured and every day is the same.
It sounds completely unachievable, doesn’t it?
Think about it. Real life is messy and amorphous. No day is the same, even with the help of schedules and routines. You are constantly pulled in different directions. So where do you stand up and say, “Ok, work time is up. I am now removing my work suit and putting on my personal fun clothes.” it is not a switch that you can just flip and the personal part of you comes to life. If you are working in a company where you have to keep flipping switches, are you really living?
Secondly, if work-life balance was actually applicable, wouldn’t we have a way of measuring it? You would sit with your boss at the end of your quarterly review and say, “This quarter I have achieved only 25% of my work-life balance for the quarter. What can we do about it?”
So what really is work-life balance?
Now that we agree that the idea of work-life balance is misunderstood, is it possible to achieve some semblance of balance and be happy; with all the important spheres of your life covered?
Balance is personal. It is what you decide works for you. Remember that everyone’s job is different. Your role in the company, your position in the company, the industry you are in, your family situation, your hobbies and interests and everything else that defines you is unique. The culture of the organisation you work for is key in determining the balance you strike between what you do in the office and the time you assign to your personal matters.
A good example is two people working in the same position in the same company. One is married with children, while the other one is single. If this job requires that they both travel to another country every week, the bachelor will be thrilled he gets to travel the world and have fun while working. For him, he has hit the jackpot of work-life balance and he is in a good place if you ask him.
The family man, on the other hand, will be excited at first at the prospect of expanding his horizons. Two months into the travelling, he will begin feeling conflicted because in as much as he enjoys the trips, he misses his kids’ important milestones and he is not able to be with his family as much as he would want to. He will begin questioning his work-life balance and he might even have second thoughts about his job.
How Do I Find My work-life Balance?
To find the balance you desire, you need to ensure you understand your unique situation and identify what is important to you. Answering these 3 questions might help;
Your job is an integral part of your life. In a discussion with a stranger, the second question after your name is usually, “What do you do for a living?” So, do you love what you do for a living? If you enjoy your work and contribution to your company, that’s the first step in finding your balance. Your job ceases to be a stressor and becomes a challenge you enjoy solving. Even ‘bad days’ in the office are just extra challenges thrown your way. You have a great boss and awesome colleagues.
Do you have a family? Hobbies? Interests? Going back to school? All those things you do after work that you need to create time for. Make a list and probably state why they are important. The goal here is to separate priority and important items from time-wasters in both your work and personal life. If you still can’t identify important and urgent segments of your life from the unimportant, maybe your problem just isn’t about balance.
It is a bit unreasonable to get your first job and still expect the perks enjoyed by people in the 15th year and in executive positions. They worked their time and are now reaping the benefits. The more you grow in your career, the more responsibilities come your way. On the flipside, the more perks and benefits you enjoy. So, it is really about what you consider important. There are those who forfeit promotion opportunities because it will take time they spend on more important matters, while others jump at the idea of any imminent promotion.
Your work-life balance is what feels right for you. It is dependent on what you decide is important to you and how you achieve it depending on the time allocated. Balance is unique to you, do not be misled by a blanket ratio that claims to fit all lifestyles without considerations on personal situations.
Also, your work is part of your life. To attain true balance, you need to do something you enjoy; then integrate this with your personal life and begin looking at both as parts of your life that make up the whole. Just like most things in life, finding an equilibrium and rhythm that suits your personal need is key.