Ten years ago ‘work-life balance’ was a conversation held at few workplaces around the world and in Australia. Today talk of ‘work-life balance’ is commonplace, with a sense of urgency.
Personally I find the whole concept of ‘work-life balance’ a little problematic. First of all, it divides your existence into two halves, the ‘work’ bit and the ‘life’ bit. ‘Work’ is your Mondays to Fridays. ‘Life’ is your weekends, your holidays, and whatever free time you have left for yourself (either before or after work) on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. And the implicit suggestion is that ‘work’ is a bit of a chore – something you have to do in order to live – and ‘life’ is when you really get to live your life (or what’s left of it after ‘work’).
My second problem with ‘work-life balance’ is this. If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you – and you may not like his or her idea of balance. Especially if that someone else is a commercial corporation. Because commercial companies are inherently designed to get as much out of you as they can get away with.
And while they may talk the ‘work-life balance’ talk, going to work on Friday in a jeans and t-shirt is not work-life balance. Giving your employees an iPhone is just another way for companies to keep you working even when you’re not at work. Putting childcare facilities into the workplace is just another way for companies to keep you working more and longer at the office, not some sort of New Age HR strategy for enlightened companies.
If you were to design your life, what would your time frame for a good ‘work-life balance’ be?
This is my ‘work-life balance’ time frame. Wake up well rested after a good nights sleep at 8am. Catch up on the news, have a coffee, shower, get dressed, head into work for a 10am start. Do 3 hours work. Have lunch, do some shopping, soak up the sun for a bit. Do another 2 hours work. Meet some friends for a drink and a laugh. Drive home for dinner. Watch some good TV. Go to bed. Read for half an hour. Sleep.
Funny thing is I never have this day. Never ever. Do you?
You see, the thing is that there is no such thing as this sort of ‘work-life balance’. Which is why I’d like to propose an alternative way of viewing ‘work-life balance’.
There is no distinction between ‘work’ and ‘life’ if your ‘work’ is as much a part of your ‘life’ as your ‘life’ is. If your ‘work’ is an expression of who you are and what you do, then it’s not ‘work’ – it’s you just living your life. In other words, it’s all ‘life’, with the good and the bad all rolled up into one. Mondays as good [or as bad] as Saturdays.
As Philosopher Alain de Botton recently declared in The Book Of Life, “There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”