If you were to stop random people in the street to ask them what the 5 most important things are in their lives chances are that work will not feature in the top 5. Maybe in rare occasions there are those of us who get to live out our ambitions and goals while being fully engaged at work. In most cases it is more “Work to live” and definitely not “live to work”.
Why then do we focus so much effort to our jobs? Often blowing off family and social events to do work and spend time with colleagues rather than family or friends?
Starting this month we will investigate this elusive concept called work-life balance.
Number one: Work-Life Balance is not equal balance. It is impossible to have equal balance. There are only 24 hours in a day. If you sleep 6-8 hours a day that leaves 16-18 hours. With at least 8 hours dedicated to work in a normal situation in theory you could have perfect balance. However, most people have to commute, work through lunch and take work home or do overtime. Therefore there is no such thing as perfect balance. Seneca, a Roman Philosopher said: “That part of life that we really live is short.”
Number two: Individual work-life balance will vary over time. Family holidays and in particular Christmas holiday over the summer tips the scales in favour of personal time. However, during the crunch parts of the year, like financial year end and strategic planning events, the scales will favour work. The point is, we need to find balance in the way it works for us as individuals. Trying to have everything and doing everything is simply not possible. Therefore finding the balance that works for you is imperative. For example someone who has small children and a young family will have a different opinion on what balance looks like than someone who is late in their career with their children out of the house.
Number three: One size does not fit all. Work-Life Balance is not like socks. One size does not fit all. As mentioned in the previous section. The balance will look different for different people depending on the time of the year and the period that their life is in. The idea is to identify your own priorities and to find solutions that fit your life.
In our leadership training course we often do an exercise called C-R-O-S roads. This exercise asks you to rate your satisfaction on 12 life dimensions across the four areas of life, namely, creator, relationships, occupation and self. This exercise is normally an eye opener to many participants. While this is a good exercise it is also a helpful tool to use to define work-life balance.
To sum up this article with a definition of work-life balance: “It is the meaningful, achievement and enjoyment in life in each of these four areas.
Finally another quote by Seneca:
“As a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”