Work-Life Balance: Does it Exist?

By Ahmed Wafi

Can you balance both work and life? Really?

I read an article once how a consultant – who was on vacation – conducted a video call with some of his colleagues who were also on vacation to talk about work. The interesting thing about the article was that nobody wanted to reschedule, despite it being their time off from work.

That’s the thing with technology – we are available around the clock no matter where we are. It’s great, in terms of convenience and all. But the downside? The blurring of your professional life and work life. Want to follow up with a colleague on a project while you’re away from the office on a personal day? Just text him. Boss needs to call for an urgent meeting but you’re home not feeling too well? That’s OK – there’s FaceTime.

Which brings us to the topic of work-life integration, or in this case, where work and life seem to meld into one. The thing about work-life integration is that it is all about balance. Let’s face it – your work life has a near direct impact on your personal life and vice versa so keeping both happy and healthy makes for a happy individual.

But it’s not simple, apparently, Jae Ellard, Founder of Simple Intentions, says in an article published on the HuffPost, “It doesn’t matter what we call ‘work-life balance’ because there is no such thing. Call it work-life harmony, integration, flexibility, flow, work-life fill-in-the-blank.”

The statement is on the pessimistic side but she later goes on to explain that the definition of balance varies from person to person, and that we have the choice to make that balance. She says, “Some days you’ll make choices that support your definition of balance. Other days your choices will sabotage the balance you seek. The magic is that every single day, it’s your choice to make again and again.”

A fact remains: Without providing work-life integration, companies might lose out on getting the best of their employees who would rather start their own business or opt for freelancing if they feel they are confined to an office without as much time as they would like outside of work.

This is especially true with millennials, (the most social generation who grew up alongside the internet) who will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025. This further strengthens the need for more flexibility if companies really want to retain the talent they have or attract new ones to join.

Doesn’t mean that it is not possible to achieve; going back to Ellard, it’s all about making the choices that will affect the balance you seek. Here are ways you can have better work-life integration.

Get rid of that perfect work-life balance idea
The perfect picture you painted of going back home as the clock strikes 5pm, spending the night chatting with friends over dinner, getting your eight hours of sleep, and spending weekends chilling has to go! There will be times where you will have to stay late and you will have to cancel plans with friends. Yes, it sucks but you’ll be able to handle it better when you’re realistic and therefore prepared for it.

Plan your day
Or better yet, plan the week. Know your schedule and try to fit in as much time as you can for both work and life. This is much easier done when you work a 9-to-5 job. Avoid taking work home unless you really must but don’t make it a habit. Also, take advantage of the facilities in and around your workplace. If you’re looking to hit the gym after work, try looking for one near your office.

Get a job you love
We’ve all heard the phrase “get a job you love and you won’t have to work a day in your life”. So true – if you get a job where you look forward to coming to in the morning, then your path to work-life integration has been made that much easier. Doing work that adds meaning and value to your life is sure to do more than just integrate both parts of your life.

Photo by Mauricio Santanna on Unsplash

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