09 Mar Work-Life Balance is a Journey, Not a Destination
Work-life balance has been the buzz word for the last couple of months. With the pandemic reshaping the way we work, the boundaries between work and life seem to have disappeared.
With the advent of technology, workers are accessible round the clock, and make work-life balance seem like an impossible feat. With the job market hitting an all-time low, fears of job loss incentivise longer hours. Experts agree that, the compounding stress from a never-ending workday is damaging. It can hurt relationships, health and overall happiness which could also hamper productivity at the least opportune time.
But what is this unattainable work-life balance? Defined as the equilibrium between personal life and career work, it has been discussed to be the goal to achieve to have a fulfilling life.
But what if we’re going about trying to achieve it all wrong? BBC Worklife recommends we think of it as a “lifelong process” instead of a goal, per se, and that it “requires vigilance, self-awareness and timely tweaks.”
Simply put, work-life balance is not a destination, it is a journey by itself. People across the world, on an average spend 1/3 of their life working. What we need to understand is that work and life is not a sum total of equal parts, they both have their own variances.
A beautiful analogy I read on LinkedIn which is a great take on the saying life is like a spinning plate today is, “It needs to fully accepted that there’s no need for you to hold up all of those spinning plates (often you don’t even have enough hands for) and, furthermore, some of the plates are plastic – so it’s OK if they drop.”
Researchers Ioana Lupu of ESSEC Business School, and Mayra Ruiz-Castro of the University of Roehampton argue that work-life balance is a “a cycle, not an achievement”.
In their 2020 study, they identified five steps that the respondents in the study who had better work-life balance used in their jobs:
- Root cause identification: Pause, de-normalise beliefs like “I’m a professional, so I should work, work, work”, and self-introspect with questions like, “What’s currently causing me stress?”.
- Hone in on resulting emotions: After identifying the cause, zero in on their subsequent feelings – do you feel angry, sad, energised?
- Re-prioritise: Ask “Is working long hours really worth cutting back on family time?”, for example.
- Consider alternatives: is there anything at work that could be changed to accommodate these new priorities?
- Implement changes: Like asking your supervisor for greater flexibility, or deciding not to take on every project that comes your way.
Work-life balance is understood to be an individual’s response – so we tend to think “it’s up to me to manage the craziness of my work life”. But if your workplace isn’t an environment where work-life balance is possible in the first place, any strides you attempt to make toward it on a personal level will be in vain.
The worldwide shift to flexible hybrid working models will likely play an important role in how we balance our professional and personal lives going forward.