One of the biggest reasons why people seek flexible work is because they are looking for that mysterious thing called “work-life balance”. In theory, once you achieve work-life balance, your entire life will be in order. You’ll be able to succeed in your job and also have the personal life you’ve always dreamt of, whether that’s being there for your child’s every soccer game, planning regular date nights with your spouse, or even traveling the world. Everything will be harmonious and you’ll be happy.
The thing is, work-life balance is a misnomer, and misleading.
Ask yourself: what is the definition of balance? As a noun, balance means “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.” As a verb, balance signifies being able to “keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall.” Now, ask yourself, how long could you honestly keep your work life and personal life in a steady state so that neither falls?
In short, there might be moments in which you have work-life balance, but in order to have consistent and steady balance, you’ll have to be able to entirely control your work (i.e. your job duties, your boss, etc) and your family—all the time. It means being able to handle anything (and everything) that is thrown your way at any given moment and still keep everything in check. And if all you’re doing is trying to keep everything perfect, well, that’s the quickest way to a nervous breakdown.
So it’s worth rethinking using the term work-life balance and instead coming up with another honest, more realistic goal to aspire to attain. After all, the term work-life balance seems to suggest that your work life and your personal life are two totally separate segments of your life, when in reality, they’re just different components of one life—yours.
Various experts have coined their own phrases when it comes to work-life balance. 1MFWF supporter Cali Yost, a work culture strategist and expert, calls it “work-life fit”, taking the stress off of striving for balance and instead focusing on managing the different components your life. 1MFWF supporter Stew Friedman, founding director of the Wharton Leadership Program and Wharton’s Work/Life Integration Project, uses the term “work-life integration.” That puts the focus is on fitting work time and personal time together, instead of making them battle it out. There are other possible terms as well, such as “work-life interface,” “work-life alignment,” or “work-life sway.” Of course, no matter what you call it, if you’re looking to live your best life, having a flexible job will be a crucial component towards achieving that.
Thinking that you have to give your all every day to work and equal parts to your family is a surefire road to disaster, because you’ll never feel like you’re measuring up. But understanding that some days, work will win, and other days, your family will come first is truly the first step in having a happy and fulfilled life.
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