How do you tip the scales?
Like many other things in American business the discussion around worklife balance has now fully migrated from curiosity to debate to fad to branding bullshit to old news. We don't talk about it anymore. Like employer of choice its an antiquated phrase that connotes the speaker (or, ahem, writer) is not current.
Too bad: the concept deserves a place in our day to day business considerations.
What is Balance
Thinking of balance like a set of scales probably isn't the most helpful notion. This view implies that things should be relatively equal (e.g., balanced) and also connotes only two parts to our being: “work” and “other” on either side.
Life is more complex than that.
What if we thought of balance like a river with ebbs and flows, eddies and currents sometimes rushing headlong and sometimes pausing just to feel the sunshine?
Thinking of balance as a static target like maintaing a schedule or a constant speed makes it a win/lose proposition. Things happen, priorities change and the interactive nature of life means other's needs often impact ours. We can't always get what we want.
But movement back and forth, up and down, slow and fast? Yes. This we can manage.
We know when we go too hard too long we're going to crash.
So rather than deploy the air brakes and hope for the best, rethink balance as flow and stay immersed in it.
What Matters to You
For most businesses there is really no desire for you to have balance: the objective is to get as much for you as possible for as long as possible. We call this maximizing return. How quaint.
Yet, if we posit that we're fully functioning adults capable of making our own choices, why should our employer be responsible for monitoring and adjusting our sense of balance? That's up to us.
So how do we assess our personal balance? We need indicators that make sense to us – and everyone's are different – to use as a proxy for how much we're managing (or missing) the ebb and flow of life.
For example, number of social visits with friends in a week (no, drinking with your workmates as you rehash the day does not count as a social visit); volunteer or civic efforts you made; time for yourself to mediatate, read or exercise; or perhaps just a day to sleep in and do nothing.
Time enjoyed is time not wasted.
What restores balance to your life? You need to know these things and how to monitor your day to day experience to seek them.
Balance is not a 50/50, win/lose proposition. Its a continuing exercise to maintain a sense of identity and wholeness in your life. To live, not just exist.
Now that its no longer a buzzword, maybe we can set about realizing what balance means for each of us. Its too important to set aside in our rush just to be current.