When Work-Life Imbalance Makes More Sense

Given how much work and personal lives have become more intertwined since the surge of workers working remotely, many have claimed that the term work-life balance is increasingly outdated.

The work-life balance concept can be traced back to Robert Owen. Owen, a Welsh manufacturer, sought a more balanced workday that entailed 8 hours of work and 8 hours of recreation after observing labor practices in the 1800s were too demanding.

Forward to the 20th century, work-life balance became more of an aspirational goal. For any worker who struggled with juggling the roles between a provider and a parent, the idea of having a stress-free yet rewarding job while having the luxury of time to spend with family and leisure was difficult to reach.

Drawing the line between personal life and work 

According to Adam Bryant, a managing director of the ExCo Group, a senior-leadership development firm, the pandemic might have rendered work-life balance a laughable concept. With the spike in the number of workers setting up workstations at home, Bryant has made a logical hypothesis.

In fact, at the height of the pandemic, workers and people organizers such as HR and global mobility professionals, began to discuss how to draw the line between professional and personal life in remote work

Bryant continues by presenting an alternative model in pursuit of a more balanced life. It begins with the concept of categorizing every moment into three categories: want, should, or need. By creating these categorizations, workers now can start making pie charts of their lives and make simple analyses of the weight of each category. He further highlights that there isn’t exactly the right mix. Each individual’s outlook will vary and is subject to change over time. 

In an article written by Andrew Deutscher, founder of Regenerate, a training firm focused on sustainable performance for high-pressure career professionals and fast-paced companies, he shares the same sentiments that work-life balance is a goal not worth achieving.

Unconventional alternative to work

Deutscher has a rather unconventional alternative. He explains that instead of aiming for work-life balance, workers ought to try work-life imbalance. For people to better understand this concept, he uses this scenario to describe work-life imbalance:

The beginning of school: When parents are getting kids prepared for a new school, they shift their central concern and focus. They commit a greater portion of their energy bandwidth to emotional preparation that will support their children’s confidence and equip them for success.

He emphasizes that more often than not when people prioritize one area over another such as in this case where parents had given more priority to their kids at a specific time, they feel a sense of guilt. This shouldn’t be the case — at least according to the business founder. Guilt will have a negative effect on the worker if the feeling continues to linger. 

By communicating and getting back to less prioritized goals during that time, people can expect to feel less guilty. It is best if we continue to clearly state our priorities to those around us so they can get a grasp of where one is currently and how one is shifting responsibilities over time. Once a worker finishes focusing on one priority, all they have to do is refocus on other duties and tasks that need to be done.

Use resources to live life

Driven leaders, specifically, might find it difficult to comprehend work-life imbalance since many of them reached their positions by rendering longer hours at work and exerting a ton of energy. 

However, Deutscher emphasizes that nowadays, leaders who base success on performance rather than time rendered, are leaders who empower their team members to use their time and resources in a way that makes them live their life.

Some believe that life and work are never going to be entirely balanced. This has been the sentiment for many years when people started to look into work-life integration. But when you are in a position where you’re leading a team, Deutscher recommends choosing the more realistic option – to choose an imbalance that fits one’s life without having to feel guilty over his or her choices.

Having the global work climate changed drastically since the pandemic, it has become necessary for people organizers to understand where employees are currently at. This information will aid them in communicating sounder advice to business executives on strategies that will help employees switch gears with the way that they work if need be. It is definitely the time to be more agile as the business realm remains uncertain.