The Myth of Work-Life Balance (#44)

People often talk about wanting work-life balance, but I don’t believe it is what they are really seeking; the concept itself is fundamentally unachievable. The notion of work life-balance implies that we have this perfect scale always in sync between our personal and professional responsibilities. It conjures up an image of someone working from home on their laptop with a baby on their lap.

However, many peoples’ concept of what a perfectly balanced professional and personal life looks like often leads to sub-par outcomes, disappointment and frustrations.

Rather than balance, what I believe we really want is the ability to be truly present in our work and in our lives outside work. We are seeking meaningful, uninterrupted, “all in” experiences at each end of the work/life spectrum.

It’s why we designed our culture at AP to offer the freedom and autonomy to achieve results for our clients, attain personal goals and attend to inevitable life issues. For example, we’ve had several team members who have had to deal with an unexpected family illness or death and we’ve encouraged them to take the time they need away from work to focus on that situation.

When one of our team member’s mother fell ill recently, she took days off from work in order to be fully present when her mom had her weekly appointments. When she was at work, she was all in and a top performer. Other examples are employees taking time during the traditional work day to train for a competition or shifting one’s hours to take a class.

In the end, the goal is not “balance” in the traditional sense. Work-life integration is more akin to a puzzle where all the different pieces fit together in aggregate. It’s an understanding that each week might bring different combination of things to attend to at work or in your personal life, but it evens out over time into a portfolio of quality experiences. The important thing is to be as present as possible in the process.

For the next week, rather than going for balance, I challenge you to measure your success at home and at work by the amount of quality, uninterrupted experiences you are able to have rather than trying to find an unachievable balance. I believe you will feel more satisfied and accomplished all around.

Quote of the Week

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”

Alain de Botton

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  1. Rachelle Watkins November 4, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Great perspective and a good way to make us think differently of what work-life balance really means! Great job and continued success!

  2. Max November 4, 2016 at 11:30 pm

    This is something I have been keeping tabs on for a bit. I have not quite had the time to finalize a framework yet, which I hope to get to early next year.

    Never liked the “balance” nomenclature. In a recent blog post Brad Field referred to it as “Harmony” which I like way better and seems to reflect more flexible dynamics.

    I like the being present idea… i had it my new years resolution for a couple of years, not there yet, but I have been better at it. One key is being able to create more occasions to be present. Wondering if moving forward a company saying “we have good work/life balance” really means more like “we want you to be able to have more meaningful moment where you can do what you like best”.

    As such empowerment to manage time is key. Remove unnecessary operational burden to focus is another.

    Need to track few more of these… 🙂

    1. fridaymaster November 6, 2016 at 8:00 pm

      Max, this is 100% our philosophy
      “we want you to be able to have more meaningful moment where you can do what you like best”.

  3. Jeff November 7, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    It’s funny how life tends to deliver what you need when you need it most. This post is extremely relevant to my current struggles. I’ve been trying to find the work-life balance, but simply have not found a way to make progress towards that equilibrium at a time when both the personal and professional sides of my life are asking for more from me.

    Although balance seems to be unattainable, I can agree that a new perspective of trying to immerse myself “all-in” is perhaps a better way to find the peace that I seek. I’ll add one of my favorites from Lao Tzu,

    “If you are depressed you are living in the past.
    If you are anxious you are living in the future.
    If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
    ― Lao Tzu

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