Now...wait. I know the title may be misleading; and I don't want to give the impression that I don't value time to myself, family, and friends; but I believe there's no such thing as "work life balance". Can one's work life and personal life ever be "balanced" or "equal" ? From my personal experience, and from what I've gathered from the experiences of many other professionals I know...the answer is a whopping, "NO."
Since I've been in my career, most of my time has gone towards work in some form or fashion. It's rare that I find myself keeping work and personal aspects of my life perfectly balanced and in check. That's why I believe the term "work life integration" is a better description of what many people should work towards for better quality of life.
What is work-life integration?
Instead of the one side vs the other aspect, that's implied by the term "work-life balance", "work-life integration" instead is an approach that creates more synergies between all components of "life": work, family/friends/significant other, community, personal well-being, and health.
The boundary between work and life, especially with the advancement of technology, is constantly blurring. The idea that a person's work life and personal life will not intermingle is unrealistic, especially in today’s time. Also, it's important to note that what optimized work life integration looks like varies from person to person and is dependent on what stage that person is in life.
Ways to begin working towards work life integration, in no particular order:
•Write down your values--clarify what is important to you.
•Write down goals according to major parts of your life (family goals, career goals, personal goals).
•Evaluate (or re-evaluate) your work situation.
Is Your Job Adding to the Quality of Your Life?
....When it comes to reviewing your job/career/work situation, ask yourself: Am I happy? I mean, you ARE spending the majority of your waking hours at your job...do you feel fulfilled?
It's important that you value your work, in order to begin working towards work life integration. When you have a job that you value, (one in which you feel fulfilled)...the task of integrating work with the rest of life won't seem so daunting. Once you have identified a life’s work that's important to you, the risk of burnout decreases and the desire to create spaces for other important parts of your life increases.
It's not all on the individual to facilitate work life integration. Employee burnout is real. The more significant the burnout, the less likely a person is to successfully integrate the pieces of his/her life. The sad thing about it is that many companies tend to treat burnout like an employee’s personal problem rather than a challenge the company itself should contribute to resolving. Once workplace burnout is addressed at an organizational level, productivity is not only likely to improve but is also likely to maintain. Employee retention rates will likely also improve.
The corporations' responsibility towards work life integration is quite in depth, but the challenge is doable. I'll discuss more of my opinion on organizations' responsibility towards employees in a future post.
In summary, considering that "work" is a part of life for many of us...it would be difficult to break off that piece of yourself and try to balance it with all the other pieces of yourself. There is never really a time were 50% of your time and focus are on work and 50% is on personal matters, at the same time.
The truth is...
Some days we will have to focus on work more; and other times we will focus on our personal lives more. More than anything though, building a life where you don't feel the frustrating need to walk a tight rope to balance it all is the goal...Creating a world where it all works together is the key.