Dismantling the Myth of Work/Life Balance
From the text of online job postings, to the subject of forward-thinking HR meetings, the ever-present buzzword “work/life balance” permeates the corporate psyche to a prolific degree.
What exactly it means, if it is truly attainable or if it should be pursued at all, is rarely discussed. In an era of job market fluidity and an extremely tight hiring landscape, it’s time to have that discussion. From your friends at Pinnacle, here are a few thoughts on work/life balance: what it is and isn’t, what it can and should be, and how we can get there.
The Problem with Work/Life Balance
The idea of work/life balance is extremely well-intentioned. When an employee seeks it, they are positioning a boundary between their work life and their personal life, which in and of itself, is healthy. Keeping work at work and personal life at home can be extremely beneficial when it comes to productivity and enjoying one’s family time.
The problem, though, rests in the idea itself. Work and life are not two opposite forces that need to be balanced; to think so is to believe that work is not part of life at all. To position the idea of “work” as being contrary to life is not only unhelpful, but downright inadvisable. You will begin to view your work not as an element that makes your life what it is, but a negative idea that detracts from your quality of life. If this is truly how you feel about your work, then you should probably find a new line of work. Otherwise, you should not position yourself, even subconsciously, to think of your “life” as the reward that lies at the end of each work day. You are setting yourself up for unhappiness.
In reality, “life” as we know it is made up of many key components. Thought leaders on the subject have posited that there are roughly seven “slices” that make up an individual’s life: professional, family, personal, physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Every component is but one piece of the framework that makes up one’s life. Over-exposing yourself to a certain area while neglecting another can lead to disappointment and lack of fulfillment, regardless of your work situation. In this sense, work was never meant to be “balanced” with life, but to be sustainably and prudently integrated as a key component of it.
When someone mentions work/life balance being a priority, they are almost always implying that they wish to work less. This implies, again, that this individual is in a position where their work drains them. As we can see, this is not truly a problem with the balance between their work and the rest of their life, but rather a problem with the nature of the work itself.
When we think of work as the negative slice of our life, we put too much undue pressure on the other aspects to lift our spirits. However, every one of us has had treacherous personal or family battles at one time or another. If we view our life through the lens of work/life balance during these trying times, we instinctively have only “work” to lean on. We may suffer as a result.
How We Can Work and Live Better
So, what can we do to create a better dynamic amongst the various aspects of our lives? Here are three strategies to help create a more healthy mindset.
1. Pursue Meaningful Work
Are you bogged down in discomfort at your job or stuck in what you perceive as a dead-end role? Resist the urge to rest your dissatisfaction at the feet of improper work/life balance. Ask yourself where you want to be, what you want to be doing, and how you can get there. If you are truly malcontent with your situation, the solution to your ultimate happiness is probably more complex than simply working less at your current job.
2. Be Present
One of the best ways to be more productive, and a generally useful axiom for life, is to be present. When you are at work, try to focus on work. Once you leave work, focus on the other areas of your life. In the vast majority of cases, any “urgent” matters can usually wait until the next day anyway. Becoming proficient at this might involve imposing simple barriers such as placing your phone in the other room, turning off your computer at a certain time, etc. Compartmentalize your work as just one component of your life. You will no longer look at it as the anvil you have to carry.
3. Develop the Other Slices
Remember the other components that make up your life? Give them an honest effort. If you have been meaning to be more physically active, the best time to start is today.
If you have been feeling depleted emotionally or spiritually, consider joining a local community group or reconnecting with a past affiliation. People meet in-person much less than they used to. You might be surprised how an industry group, bible study, or networking association can lead to more serotonin.
Lastly, challenge your mind in different ways. If your job is mostly quantitative and time-sensitive, try honing a completely different craft. Find a creative outlet, such as journaling, poetry, painting, or songwriting. Don’t put pressure on yourself to produce results. Rather, treat the exercise as a mental release and harken back to the unbridled creativity you might have felt as a child. Enjoy yourself, and see what happens.
When You’re Working, Work at the Right Place
Are you looking to change the course of your career, establish yourself in a new market, or you simply have questions and need advice? Start by asking for help. The team at Pinnacle is ready to help you determine your highest-value work skills. More importantly, we can find the right role that amplifies your life as a whole. We place finance and accounting applicants in roles where they can make an immediate impact. Partner with us to move toward your career aspirations. Let’s work together.
We will put you first, from start to finish. Contact us today to start moving in the right direction.