TAP In with Tristan : Unpopular Opinion – Work-Life Balance is a Myth

Tristan Layfield shares an unpopular opinion of his – that work-life balance is a myth. 

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Tristan: What’s going on, Living Corporate? It’s Tristan, and I want to thank you for tapping back in with me as I provide some tips and advice for professionals. This week let’s talk about an unpopular opinion of mine, that work-life balance is a myth. By now, most of us have heard the phrase “work-life balance.” This phrase was coined in the 70s and made popular in the 80s by the magazine Working Mother. It was a way to promote the idea that women with families could enter the workforce and have equal success in both their personal and professional lives. To ensure companies could retain working mothers, they felt they had to ensure that they had this “work-life balance,” but many of the efforts were quite disingenuous. As work-life balance continued to make waves over the subsequent decades, studies from 2003 show that any gains in leisure time were concentrated among the most educated and highest-paid. So let’s dig into work-life balance a bit. According to dictionary.com, the word balance means a state of equilibrium; equal distribution of weight or amount. Based on this definition, the entire premise of work-life balance is that work and life are opposing forces, and there is a point where you can equally distribute your time between the two creating some sense of harmony. Personally, I think that is a flawed way of viewing the two. It requires people to compartmentalize and believe that work only happens at work and life only happens outside of work. Essentially, it assumes that work and life only occur outside of each other, like one has no bearing on the other. We know that’s not the case at all, and it has become even more evident throughout this pandemic. Work is a part of and has a very significant impact on your life. The two exist together, not in silos. The other main flaw is that our institutional structures don’t allow for balance. Many people are afraid to use their vacation time in the US, and if they do, the vacations are short. Taking a sabbatical or a leave of absence is rare and only reserved for the most severe health cases. School hours don’t align with office hours. Necessary health appointments and financial transactions can only take place when most of us are working. Our working culture has never adapted for balance to ever be achieved. At the end of the day, the reality is that balance between the two just simply does not exist. Instead, I, and many other professionals, suggest striving for what we call work-life integration. So what does that mean or look like? It just means finding ways to incorporate the two into each other when necessary. Maybe you need to run some errands for work; you could find a friend to tag along and catch up with. If you’re like me lately and are perpetually tired, scheduling time on your calendar for naps in between meetings could be a way to have work-life integration. Or maybe you need to take your grandma to her doctor’s appointment; you can take a business call while waiting for her in the waiting room. It’s essentially finding ways to stop work from impeding on life and life from impeding on work, finding ways to allow them to coexist with each other. Now, integration is something that can still lead to burnout, but we’ll discuss on another tip soon! Thanks for tapping in with me this week. This tip was brought to you by Tristan of Layfield Resume Consulting. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @LayfieldResume or connect with me, Tristan Layfield, on LinkedIn.

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