According to the Business Dictionary, work-life balance is a comfortable state of equilibrium achieved between an employee’s primary priorities of their employment position and their private lifestyle. That’s the simple definition.
The dictionary further states that 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.
There are different beliefs and schools of thought that highlight the pros and cons of the concept; while some agree it is not attainable, others implore organisations to encourage the practice as it helps optimise employee performance and reduces burn-out.
Whether you believe the concept is an attainable or unattainable practice, join us as we look at what work-life balance is not.
On one hand of the concept of work-life balance, you have ‘work,’ which represents employment, career and professional life. On the other hand, there is ‘life,’ which represents your social life, family and your personal life outside work. A popular misconception around this is the erroneous belief that work-life balance is when you allocate an equal amount of time to both aspects of your life. This is not the case.
Trying to apportion equal time for work and your life outside work in quite unrealistic and you are likely to end up with an unrewarding experience.
Work-life balance means you don’t always have to say ‘yes’ to demands at your place of work and the same applies to your personal life. This is not what work-life balance is all about. Rather, you should strive to strike a balance that incorporates both sides of the coin. You can draw a clear distinction between urgent and not so urgent tasks. This will manage the expectations of your employer better. You don’t have to promise on tasks or responsibilities you do have the capacity to deliver on.
There are emails, phone calls and off-hour requests that fall into the category of emergencies. You cannot completely unplug yourself from such responsibilities under the claim of practising work-life balance. This can become even more complicated if the organisation you work for does support the concept of work-life balance. In a situation where you are not disposed to deliver on specific tasks, there is always room to delegate or reassign the task to someone else with the capacity to get the job done.
Empathy and having leadership qualities require that for work emergencies or requests that can’t wait, you should give your input when such is required. This can be annoying especially when you have personal plans, try as much as you can not to detach yourself completely from the organisation you work for in the name of practising work-life balance.
Practising work-life balance even when your employers’ employee retention strategies support the concept does not make you your own boss. There are still reporting lines. You need to be strategic with your boss and team to achieve work-life balance.
Do not go around making plans for your personal time when you have committed yourself to expectations that you are yet to deliver on due to personal reasons or other unforeseen circumstances.
Your use of technology to accomplish certain tasks you have been saddled with is not work-life balance. The use of technology either in your work or private life can be an enabler to ensure you attain work-life balance but using it is not work-life balance in itself. It important to ensure that while you can do more with technology, you do not fall into the trap of having it controlling, disrupting or dominating your personal or work life.
Remote work is done away from the office. It can be done while commuting, on the road when travelling or even from your living room at home. Working remotely does not guarantee your attainment of work-life balance because events in your personal or private life can also interfere with your work life and vice versa.
In conclusion, it is important to establish the fact that not all employers and organisation believe in the culture of work-life balance, it should be encouraged because it optimises your performance at work and helps you connect better with the realities of other important aspects of your life.
Be strategic in drawing up a plan to help you attain your work-life balance goals. Set those goals today and commit yourself towards achieving them.