Work Life Balance
The first time I heard this phrase was while I was working in a high paced role for a company that ‘encouraged’ and ‘promoted’ work-life balance but had a lot of people burning out regularly. Yes, it was encouraged in that there were posters everywhere in the building, but the deadlines did not make sense and no one dared complain for fear of victimization. Yes, you were seen as not being a team player if you mentioned the unrealistic deadlines. Those were the years of the blackberry, emails found you after work hours and if you had a work phone you had to respond regardless of the time the email was sent… ironic neh!
New in the working world and single, I did not see the harm in working the long hours which sometimes spilled into the weekend. A deadline was a deadline and it had to be met. I did not see the importance of a good work-life balance and I wrongly thought that work-life balance was for people with families, so they could have time for their children. I now know I was wrong and I wish the importance of a good work-life balance had been taught to me when I started at varsity. Or at least at orientation when I started working.
But what is work-life balance? Is it important?
Wikipedia defines Work-life balance as ‘the lack of opposition between work and other life roles. It is the state of equilibrium in which demands of personal life, professional life, and family life are equal. Work-life balance consists of, but it is not limited to, flexible work arrangements that allow employees to carry out other life programs and practices.’
Businessdictionary.com defines work-life-balance as ‘A comfortable state of equilibrium achieved between an employee’s primary priorities of their employment position and their private lifestyle. Most psychologists would agree that the demands of an employee’s career should not overwhelm the individual’s ability to enjoy a satisfying personal life outside of the business environment.’
Let us talk about these definitions for a bit. Lack of opposition…. given that we only have 24 hours in the day and we want to do as much as possible in that 24 hours, can we really ever have a ‘Lack of opposition’? Or we have accepted that we can’t do it all and simply put other things aside for another time? I like the word ‘comfortable’, ‘comfortable state of equilibrium’. The opposition will always be there, but you need to be comfortable with what you are doing and the amount of time you are spending on it, be it personal or work-related.
For me, a good work-life balance means being present, productive, and happy in both my personal and workspaces. As in, I need to be able to separate the two and still be good and happy with my output and my presence in both spheres. In simple terms, I need to be able to do my work fully and deliver consistently and I also need to be able to spend time with my family and do activities that make me and my family happy without work coming in and taking any of that time. Hopefully, I am making sense. If I have too many responsibilities at work that are either eat into my personal and family time as well as constantly on my thoughts, then I am not balanced. If I am spending too much work time on personal and family issues, then I am also not balanced work-wise. It is not only about having time and energy for personal life but also about being and doing your best at work.
But, is a good work-life balance important? Most definitely. For employers, rigidity on working hours, unrealistic deadlines, and expectations on employees may impact employee wellness and performance. It really is stressful when you keep being bombarded with deadlines that require you to work around the clock. Worse when everyone seems to be doing it and you feel like you have no option.
A good work-life balance is a win for everyone. It means less stress, reduced risk of burn out, overall good health, and increased productivity.
One other thing that helps in order to have a work-life balance, is that one needs to become aware of the two, work and life. Once you are aware that the 2 are separate entities, then you can assess how to feel most of the time as well as time spent in either of the spheres.
No one can force you to have a balanced work-life balance. You need to define boundaries for both work and life and find what works for you. The posters at my old company were in the right place, it was now up to me to take care of my work and life and make sure that I can balance the two without dropping either ball. Both work and life can get pretty hectic and stressful, taking adequate time away to rest and recharge is very important. Eating well and exercising is not only so that you look good and live long, but it also ensures that you are fully present for both work and life.
What is work-life balance for you? What does a good balance look like for you?