Work-life balance is one of those phrases that either resonates with people or it doesn’t. It’s a term that often gets negative responses like; it’s not attainable, forget about it, balance doesn’t exist or it’s a myth. It also gets renamed to terms like work-life blend, work-life integration, work-life harmony. If what we are talking about is how to have work and our personal life coexist, what does it matter what we call it. I think we can all agree that the term work-life balance does not literally mean trying to equally distribute your time between work and your personal life.
Years ago, the term was used to make sure workers were getting a needed day off; where they were able to rest and not have to think about work. Fast forward to the digital age and now we have continual access to work. We can now be ‘on’ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The term work-life balance somehow began to take on the literal meaning, that you must equally split your time between work and play, and therefore seemed to be impossible to achieve.
The whole idea is to get off the hamster wheel and stop thinking about how you can achieve balance and instead think of it as a necessary step to develop a life you want and need. You must be intentional about developing habits and applying principles that help you to find your way to balance. When you are living a balanced life, you are doing the things you want to do, your life is peaceful, your relationships are strong, and you are making time to incorporate healthy habits. You are living a whole life, where all of the parts function well together.
My personal definition of work-life balance is that it’s not about having an equal amount of time between work and your personal life. It’s about not having work consume your life. It’s about being able to work and have and maintain a healthy mind, body and spirit. If you’re physically healthy you have the stamina and drive to perform at a high level. If you are emotionally healthy you are more resilient and can manage your stress better. If you are spiritually filled, no matter what the challenges are, you are at peace and your purpose and passion are fueled by your desire to make a difference.
Why do we talk about work-life balance so much? One reason is that it’s affecting families, especially working moms. 60% of mothers working full time say it is very to somewhat difficult to balance the responsibilities of their job and responsibilities of their family. Studies also show that juggling work and the responsibilities of family can negatively impact your physical and emotional wellbeing. When we don’t have balance in our lives, it can lead to poor health. According to a report in Medical News Today by A. Sandiou, some studies have shown that individuals who work 55 hours or more per week have a 1.3 times higher risk of stroke than those working standard hours. Also, long working hours have been associated with a higher risk of anxiety (1.74 times higher) and depression (1.66 times higher). A 2017 World Happiness Report reported that work-life balance is now one of the strongest predictors of happiness. Unfortunately, more than half of Americans are dissatisfied with their work due to a lack of work-life balance.
For us to achieve work-life balance we must define what it looks like. What does work-life balance look like to you?
Work-life balance is individual and must be defined by the person who is seeking it. There are some people who are completely happy with work and fulfilled in the other areas of their lives. They are spending quality time with family, exercising and eating healthy, taking time for themselves to recharge and love what they do. Then there are some people who have the same work hours who are not able to blend the other areas of their lives with their work schedule. So, they become stressed with work and their health, relationships and career suffer.
Here are some examples of what work-life balance may look like:
What is important for you to have in your life to be able to have balance? Does your current work-life balance situation support the lifestyle you want to have? Take this quiz and find out. Download it here.
Work-life balance is not one size fits all. We are responsible for how we want our own work-life balance defined.
Peace and Blessings,