What is work-life balance?
Work-life balance. It’s a funny term when you think about it. The definition of equilibrium is “a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” The image that this evokes for many is the classic stairs: inclination back and forth on opposite sides. So what is the “correct proportion” of work and life? How can we move the weights to opposite sides of the stairs so that the two can be equal?
The short answer is that we can’t. Work and life are not two independent things suspended from each other to be uniformed or leveled. As long as humans have worked (which is practically forever in one form or another), life and work have been completely interdependent. They cross and are connected in so many ways, extracting from each other would be almost impossible.
This interconnection occurs both functionally and emotionally. At the most basic functional level, work provides income. Income, in turn, provides food and accommodation – basic requirements for life. On an emotional level, work influences our sense of value, well-being, stress levels and our sense of accomplishment, to name a few. These are all important factors in the quality of our life.
However, it is not just a job that affects life. Our lives also influence our work. Relationships, children, health, hobbies and all the other things that we gather in the bucket of “life” – have their own ways of shaping our long-term work, as well as every day.
For example, the decision to have children will have an impact on our ability to work. Our choice to exercise and be healthy could increase both our physical and mental capacity in our work. Discussing with a loved one before starting the day can affect our mood when we sit at our desks the next morning.
So when we say we are looking for work-life balance, what are we really talking about? I think it’s different for everyone, but for me, it boils down to how my job and life support each other so that I can be the best version of myself that I can be.
Presentation of Work-Life Harmony
The term I prefer to use is harmony between Work and Life. This idea stems from the musical concept, where several notes are played together to create a wonderful sound. The non-musical definition is “the quality of forming a pleasant or coherent whole.”
Ah, now we take care of something. When we move the definition slightly, the whole picture of work and life changes. It is this concept of work-life harmony that I believe is a more appropriate goal to live to the fullest of our potential. So what do we need to do to achieve this wonderful symphony?
It all starts with a change of perspective. How can we tune the notes of work and life to make them sing together? What new notes can we introduce or remove to make them sound more pleasant? In more practical terms, we can start by asking ourselves these simple questions:
- Which aspects of my life are having the most positive/negative effects on my work
- Which aspects of my work are having the most positive/negative effects on my life
- Can I improve an area of my life by moving something with my work?
- Can I improve an area of my work by moving something in my life?
- What changes could I make to the life and work so that everyone can better support me in living to its fullest potential?
These questions are only a starting point, but the more we ask them ourselves, the more aware we are of the relationships between our life and our work. Unfortunately, the idea of harmony is not as simple as balance: take one thing from one side and put it on the other side. My hope, however, is that it will help us tune in to what is really important and make a bigger difference to our long-term success and well-being.