Work-Life Balance is Bullsh*t.
There. I said it!
I’ve alluded to my disdain for this concept over the last year on many different platforms, and every time I mention it, someone asks me for my perspective, which I’ve been reticent to share.
Why? Because we love the idea that this concept of “balance” can exist. We take trainings on it. We use all the buzzwords. And we hope that someday, if we just work hard enough at it, we can find the elusive zen of “balance”.
But let’s face it: far too many businesses pay lip service to their commitments to “work-life balance”. It takes on almost a mythical status, complete with ‘work-life-balance’ company mascots, like, “Sue, from accounting!” Look at Her! She’s VP of sales! She also runs marathons! And coaches her kid’s soccer team! And yet, she never misses a client call! Just. Ya know. Be like Sue! It’s easy!
The reality is: Sue is positively exhausted. Burnt out. Because for most businesses, “life” is viewed as something that gets in the way of work. A series of cute distractions to be managed. On your own time. Not the company’s.
Last week, I went to a funeral. It was a bit of a drive to get there but it was important to me that I attend. When I came home and my husband asked me about it, the first thing that I shared was my surprise that I was able to be present. I wasn’t on a work call on the way there. I wasn’t checking my phone in between eulogies. I wasn’t being asked to quickly hop on the phone since I was in the car anyways on the way back.
“How different”, I thought. I didn’t feel was stressed about what was happening at the office that I was missing, or guilty that something unexpected was pulling my attention away from work.
Here’s what I’ve learned and what I see consistently across my clients:
Work and life can’t receive equal attention most of the time, and we have to normalize that for ourselves and for our teams. Marketing that possibility is misleading and frustrating.
· Embrace Reality – Embrace the chaos, be realistic in expectations and know that constraints are normal.
· Communicate – Tell your family why work is important to you in this moment. Shift your mindset from guilt to pride. Tell work that on Tuesday afternoons, you need to head out early for your daughter’s girl scout meeting. (Don’t know how? Let’s talk about it)
· Normalize tradeoffs – You can’t be both at your tennis match and at your board meeting. So pick the one that you feel is most important in that moment, and know that it’s a tradeoff.
· Set boundaries and say no – Saying no confirms what’s important to you. And saying no to one thing means you’re saying yes to another.
· Ride the waves – Take advantage of the quiet moments and stop chasing busy. Being busy doesn’t make you more important. It just makes you busy.
I call bullshit on the concept of work-life balance.
Tell me what you think it should be called? Work-Life Integration? Work-Life blend? Life?