Is work-life balance a myth?

*By Linda Murray

Since the pandemic when many of us had to work from home, some for the first time, the concept of work-life balance is back in the news. While working from home seems to promise more flexibility and time savings, what actually happened was very different. 

Researchers at Atlassian found that by April/May 2020, people were working at least 30 minutes longer from home than they did in the workplace.

“Over half of respondents said it’s harder now to maintain work-life boundaries than before the pandemic, and 23% reported thinking about work during their off-hours more than they used to.”

Further, research quoted in SHRM says “Nearly 70 per cent of professionals who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they now work on the weekends, and 45 per cent say they regularly work more hours during the week than they did before…” 

Is there such a thing as work-life balance?

What happened to the promise of a better work-life balance? Years ago, GE’s CEO Jack Welch, said, “There’s no such thing as work-life balance, there are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” 

What choices are you making? 

The way we divide our time is all about choices. We each have 24 hours in the day to use as we see fit. Family, sleep, travel, work, training, doing nothing… It’s up to each person to make the choices that will bring the results they want. 

What results do you want?

Here’s where many of us trip up. We want money or promotion. We want holidays. When I ask my clients why these things are important to them, they dig deep and realise there’s another layer to them. Money or travel are only tools to achieve something more meaningful, and usually, that’s about relationships, family or finding their place in life. 

The power of choice.

When you stop trying to divide your life into little boxes and start looking at it as a whole, your choices become clear. It’s no longer about squeezing in 8 hours of work so you can have a few hours to spend with your family. It’s about making conscious decisions about what is of real value to you.  

When you concentrate on work-life choice, you being to think about strategies to help you get what you really want. For example, lining up resources before the busy period hits so you are ready to deal with the extra demands on your time and energy. Or weighing up the opportunity cost of working increasingly long hours at home and instead, finding ways of working differently. 

Is work-life balance a myth? Yes, it is if you accept the term as it has been typically used. However, the real answer is no. Work-life balance is not a myth if you focus on work-life choice. Plan and be ready for the unexpected events which inevitably pop up. Make conscious choices, not choices that fit into the pre-programmed time blocks of work or sleep or life.  

When you make the choice of your normal approach to work-life, you can design the lifestyle you want and enjoy the parts of life which really matter. Learning to make those choices can be difficult initially while you come to terms with the shifting balance in your world. 

*Linda Murray a Keynote Speaker, Trainer and Executive Coach who motivates & inspires.

*This article first appeared on the athenacoaching.com.au website.

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