Monday, October 29, 2012

Work-Life Balance: Is It Time for a New Concept?

Drawing of woman in maternity ward, working on her laptop computer
Image by Mike "Dakinewavamon" Kline, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

You know that work-life balance that has been the goal of so many, for so long? A number of people I've been reading lately suggest we use another term that more accurately captures our reality. Here are some people's thoughts on why work-life balance doesn't work — along with some candidates for a replacement term.

1. Work-Life Harmony

Darius "Bubs" Monsef is a startup founder and CEO. He's also a husband and a father. He writes:
How I choose to run my life is to strive not for balance, but for harmony. I embrace that my personal and work lives coexist in the same 24 hours of each day. My founder brain doesn’t shut off and neither does my personal brain.

2. Work-Life Blend or Work-Life Integration

Ron Ashkenas has spent 30 years in consulting. He writes:
The reality for many of us these days is that our professional lives bleed into our personal lives. The boundaries are increasingly permeable and movable. ...

Maybe we need to accept the fact that the sharp demarcation between work and home is a thing of the past, and that the new normal is a life that integrates home and work more seamlessly. ...

We can stop feeling guilty about ... checking our emails at night; and by the same token not feel guilty about talking with our spouses, friends, and family members during work time.
Credit: I found this article via Julie-Ann Burkhart.

3. No alternative term, but not work-life balance!

Erin Doland is editor-in-chief of and the author of the book Unclutter Your Life in One Week; she's also a wife and a mom. Here's her take:
Whenever someone asks me if I have “work-life balance,” it makes my skin crawl. My work is an essential component of who I am. There isn’t a work me and a personal me. I’m just me, all the time. When I’m at work I often think of non-work stuff, and when I’m not at work I often think of work. I don’t have a work/non-work switch.

4. Just "Life"

This one comes in graphic form from Venkatesh Rao (or Venkat), and it's wonderful. The image is used with permission.

drawing - the evolution of work-life

I was drawn to these writings (and drawings) because they capture how I feel about my own life, where the idea of having firm boundaries between "work" and "rest of my life" disappeared long ago. But what's right for me and the people I've quoted isn't necessarily right for everyone. I'm curious about you; how do you feel about this issue of work-life balance? Let me know through email or by adding a comment!


Janice Wallace said...

Thought provoking post Jeri. I agree that work/life balance is antiquated concept and that integration is what most people are seeking. Unfortunately it often seems that work takes priority. I must confess to being horrified by the cartoon of the woman giving birth and working. If there was any time to pay attention to the personal certainly that would be it. On another note, there is a great article in the Conde Nast Traveler November 2012 issue that talks about the benefits of an unplugged vacation. Sometimes boundaries are refreshing.

Claire Josefine said...

How could I not comment on this one? :-) I feel like I'm already at the 2050 smiley-face stage, and the way I got there was by choosing life within a context of Simple Living. I chose to create a life that matches my values, and to create work that matches my skills. I realize many people feel stuck and that they "can't" change their life, but the only thing different about me is that I believed I could and decided to do so. The book Your Money Or Your Life was a good catalyst for my personal process. From there, I mind-mapped what I wanted my life -- and my work -- to look like, and set about creating that vision.

Mary E. Rossow said...

... Jeri, Since the inception/creation of Rossow Resources, I have learned one very powerful lesson for myself:

"Everything personal is BUSINESS, and everything business is PERSONAL!"

That would accurately describe my experience of the past 27 years.

Perhaps more true in the field/industry/practice of Professional Organizing, due to the incredibly intimate nature of our work and the way that we serve our clients.

I bring "ALL OF ME" to every client appointment, and also to every social interaction with friends.

I use to apologize for it... now, I cherish and celebrate it. It makes me feel like a "whole" human being!

Warm Personal~Business Socks,

Melanie Dennis said...

Made me feel better to see that others were choosing a more blurry line if there is one at all.

Jeri Dansky said...

Janice, Claire, Mary and Melanie: Thanks for your thoughtful comments; I have the best readers!