Work Life Balance vs. Work Life Harmony
What is Work-Life Balance?
Work-Life balance. It’s a funny term when you think about it. The definition of balance is “a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions”. The image this conjures for many is the classic scales - tilting back and forth on opposite sides. So what is the ‘correct proportion’ of work and life? How is it that we can shift the weights on opposite sides of the scales so the two can be equal?
Debunking Work-Life Balance
The short answer is, we can’t. Work and life aren’t two independent things hovering apart from each other to be evened out or levelled. For as long as humans have been working (which is pretty much forever in some form or another), life and work have been completely interdependent. They cross and are connected in so many ways, to extract one from the other would be just about impossible.
This interconnection happens at both the function and emotional levels. At the most basic functional level, work provides income. Income in turn provides food and shelter - basic requirements for life. At the emotional level, work affects our sense of worth, wellbeing, stress levels and our sense of fulfilment, just to name a few. These are all important factors in the quality of our lives.
It’s not just work affecting life however. Our lives also affect our work. Relationships, children, health, hobbies and all the other things we lump in the ‘life’ bucket - have their own ways of shaping our work on a long term, as well as day to day basis.
For example the decision to have children will impact our capacity for work. Our choice to exercise and be healthy might increase both our physical and mental capability in our jobs. Having a fight with a loved one before we start our day can affect our mood when we sit down at our desks the next morning.
So when we say we are seeking Work-Life balance, what are we really talking about? I believe it is different for everyone, but for me it boils down to how my work and life support each other so I can be the best version of me I can be.
Introducing Work-Life Harmony
The term I prefer to use, is Work-Life harmony. This idea comes from the concept in music, where different notes are sounded together to create a beautiful sound. The non musical definition is “the quality of forming a pleasing or consistent whole”.
Ah, now we’re onto something. When we slightly shift the definition, the whole picture of work and life changes. It’s this concept of Work-Life harmony I believe is a more appropriate goal for living to our full potential. So what do we need to do to achieve this wonderful symphony?
It all begins with the shift in perspective. How can we tune the notes of work and life to make them sing together? What new notes can we introduce or remove to make the sound more pleasing? In more practical terms, we can begin by asking ourselves these simple questions:
- What aspects of my life are having the most positive/negative affect on my work? - What aspects of my work are having the most postitive/negative affect on my life? - Can I improve an area of my life by shifting something with my work? - Can I improve an area of my work by shifting something in my life? - What changes could I make to life and work so that each supports me better in living to my fullest potential?
These questions are just a starting point, but the more we ask them of ourselves, the more conscious we are being about the relationships between our life and work. Unfortunately the idea of harmony is not as simple as balance - take one thing off one side and put it on the other side. My hope though, is it will help us tune in (pun intended) to what is really important and make a greater difference to our long term success and wellbeing.