My Thoughts on Work / Life Balance

I have always hated the phrase ‘work/life balance’.

Good post, see you next week.

Seriously though, this phrase has always bugged me. At best, it creates a false dichotomy through lazy language. At worst, it causes us to buy into this false dichotomy and pushes people to believe that their work is somehow separated from actual life. I have seen this create internal strife as people try to keep in balance two competing forces in their world.

I believe that work and life are both part of the same thing, our life. Work is an important aspect in all areas of our life. The ways we chose to allocate our time and efforts are a part of our life. To separate work from, or even the time we spend with an employer from the sum total of our full life is folly. A much better phrase would be a ‘balanced life’, as this recognizes that all aspects of life are part of the whole.

One of the biggest problems I have with ‘work/life balance’ as a phrase is that it often comes from an employer touting work/life balance as a benefit fo working for them. This phrase seems to take the responsibility for building a balanced life off of the individual to whom the life belongs, and tries to put it in the hands of the employer. Not only does this fail to account for differences between individuals and what their balanced life may look like, it shifts the responsibility of boundaries away from the employee to the employer.

Individuals are just that, individual. Every person has different needs, wants, and desires that cause their individual situation to be slightly different. For one, spending 60 hours a week at the office engaged in deeply satisfying work may be healthy and appropriate, where that would be soul crushing for another. It is incumbent on each of us to understand what a balanced life looks like for each of us.

Once we understand what a balanced life means, we also need to take responsibility to live out that balance. Allowing an employer to dictate a concept of work/life balance in my opinion puts too much control in their hands, and is therefore out of balance. It is much better (at least in my view of a balanced life) to take ownership of our own decisions and invest our time accordingly at work.

That doesn’t mean we can say that our concept of balance means we only work 12 hours a week if we have committed to a company 40+ hours in a week. If you want to work 12 hours a week, then I suggest you find a job where that fits with the expectations of the role. Just please take ownership of your own actions in realizing that is what a balanced life looks like for you.

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