The term ‘work-life balance’ has become somewhat overused in the modern era; a much-coveted goal that workers strive to achieve and employers strive to implement.
Sometimes it can seem like an almost unachievable, elusive way of life, with the need to find the time to balance a busy working schedule, friends, family, and life admin. Not to mention housekeeping, pet care, Netflix binge-watching, and just taking some good old fashioned time to clear your cluttered mind.
But, having a work-life balance isn’t just something that you simply ‘achieve’ or ‘win’, then kick back, relax, and retire to a beach somewhere surrounded by cocktails (although this sounds great!) Having a healthy work-life balance is something that should be worked upon on a continual basis.
What does it actually mean to have a work-life balance?
The truth is, the term ‘work-life balance’ doesn’t really have a clear, succinct definition.
Some go so far as to dramatically claim that the “work-life balance is dead”. Others believe that equilibrium is still very much alive and kicking, industry experts and life gurus such as Tony Robbins regularly sharing their simple steps to help bring balance to your life.
In truth, it would appear there isn’t a single, universally accepted method or definition for a ‘work-life balance’. This disparity is further enhanced with the differing views of management and employees.
A study from staffing firm OfficeTeam found that while 63% of senior managers felt they helped their employees achieve a good work-life balance, only 34% of these ‘balanced’ employees agreed. Clearly, there’s an imbalance in worker’s and employer’s views on what constitutes a work-life balance… confusing, eh?
What should you focus on?
Work only makes up a small part of who you are, so let’s ignore that side for a second.
Consider the things outside of your work that contribute to you as a person. What are your passions? What helps you to grow and develop? How often do you get to dive head-first into a new book? And how many episodes of Game of Thrones do you really want to watch in a night?
Focusing too much on your work and not enough on your personal life can have a hugely detrimental impact on your own wellbeing. Often, we don’t realise we’ve been wasting parts of our life until months, or even years, have passed us by. We always make promises to our friends that “we’ll catch up soon”, but how often does this actually happen?
Astonishingly, over half of all UK employees have suffered a burnout because of work, with 69% of millennials listing work-life balance as one of their greatest worries in life. And, a further nail in the coffin, in a list of 33 things that make us happy, ‘work’ didn’t manage to find itself a place on the list.
With Denmark being ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world, having always placed a huge emphasis on shorter working hours, spending time with family, and being involved in clubs and activities, it’s clear this focus on a life balance is important.
Bringing work into your life balance
But, of course, work is just a natural part of living (unless you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth!), and it’s something that you must always factor into your life balance. However, there’s no reason why work can’t make up an enjoyable part of your life too.
If a job isn’t making you happy, then you’ll feel an even greater need to make the ‘life’ part of your work-life balance stronger. But this, in itself, creates an imbalance.
You need to be able to walk into work with a spring in your step, safe in the knowledge that you’re passionate about what you’re doing and that you’re in an environment where you’re growing, learning and are being listened to.
Moreover, if you love your work, then it shouldn’t feel like work. It should feel like a part of your learning and growing; a part of your life even. You shouldn’t be zombie-ing through Mondays and living for Fridays. So, let’s start loving Mondays!
It can sound a bit new-agey, but positive attitudes and positive thinking has actually been proven to rewire your brain, as well as improve your health and boost your memory. And, it’s been proven that happy employees are 12% more productive and, in some studies, take 66% less sick leave.
So how should you live your life?
Work-life balance has become such a common phrase that it’s now just a part of the modern day lingo. It’s talked about at length, but it almost has no substance anymore.
There’s no ‘one glove fits all’ when it comes to finding balance in your life. Just in the same way that we all love different foods, films and hobbies, we too have different ways of approaching the way in which we live and work.
Some like working every day, including weekends (crazy, I know), while others prefer to build a passive income so that they never have to work again.
More and more employees are choosing to work remotely, or even to work for themselves as freelancers, while others love having the structure of a 9-5 or being an entrepreneur, wishing they could work more than 24 hours a day.
It’s down to you to decide what ‘balance’ means for you, but all that matters is that you’re happy. And this isn’t coming from a “let’s all be zen” angle here; if you feel rested, content and fulfilled, regardless of where you direct your hours, then you’ve found your balance.
Me? I chose to work as a freelancer two years ago, and I chose it for very specific reasons. I found myself burnt out working 13+ hour days in London, and I decided I wanted to pick my own working hours, not be bound by one location, and to keep total control over my own stress levels.
At the same time, I can choose my days off, meaning I can do the things I want to do whenever I want. For me, this is the balance. (Before anyone points any fingers and calls me lazy, I work 7 days a week!)
But this life isn’t for everyone, and it shouldn’t have to be. When I find myself on a remote, tropical island in Borneo and I’m running around the rainforest trying to find signal to send an email…well, I can see why some people like offices, structure and strong Wi-Fi.
Don’t get too swept up in modern day, hip millennial terms like ‘work-life balance’. Focus on the things that make you happy, work that makes you feel fulfilled and the way in which you want to live your life, and you’ll find that the dream balance comes naturally. And if something isn’t working for you? Change it.