By Ashley Anderson
Many of the organizations that reach out to speak with us are eager to figure out how to create a corporate culture or environment that promotes and facilitates greater work life balance.
In the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, the firm collected the views “of nearly 7,700 individuals representing 29 different countries around the globe. All participants were born after 1982, have obtained a college or university degree, are employed fulltime, and predominantly work in large (100+ employees), private sector organizations”.
When asked about evaluating job opportunities, the surveyed millennials indicated — amongst categories like “opportunities to be leaders”, “professional development training programs”, and “a leading company that people admire” – that “good work/life balance” outshone them all in importance.
While I am not combating the relevance or truth behind this revelation, I believe that the wording attached to this value-set is inaccurate.
As my partner Eric Termuende often alludes, “balance” is typically associated with the visualization of Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition “stability produced by even distribution of weight on each side of the vertical axis”
This is certainly not the only way to define balance – personally, I gravitate toward Oxford Dictionary’s definition of “balance” being “a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions”
But both definitions seem to imply polarity.
It is this polarity that restricts us from ever truly finding the balance that we so fervently seek. The need to perfectly balance can be stressful… much like a tightrope.
Consider this… what if we stopped talking about work/life balance and instead start talking about work/life integration?
If we eliminate the idea of balance, and instead stress the importance of work/life integration we could translate that into seeking a fulfillment base, rather than the bipolarity of balance. In this scenario, our decisions and environments intertwine to create (or work toward creating) a fulfilling life, rather than a balanced one.
A common example that clients frequently share with us is the shared struggle of “balancing” being a working parent, while also being a career driven leader. Often in these cases, guilt is associated with both sides of the coin – feeling guilty when they are ‘working too hard’, and often feeling guilty when they are parenting and not ‘attending to their work’ as readily. A mother of two myself, this is something that I spend a lot of time working on.
The key is to remember that there is never going to be a silver bullet. No perfect solution.
We must break down the polarized nature of work/life BALANCE, and encourage people to develop mechanisms that will support THEIR fulfillment.
In some cases, this has meant clients time-blocking worktime and mindful family time. Often doing a mix of worktime during traditional hours, three hours of mindful family time in the evening, another 90 minutes of work time (or as we encourage, Development Hour) followed by mindful relationship time. This can be with a spouse, friends, family or – and often most importantly – with ourselves, doing COMPLETLEY enjoyable and stress-free activities (In my case this includes such favourites as: watching House of Cards, playing a board game, perusing Instagram, going to a late-night yoga class, or simply hitting the hay early!)
If it’s important to you, find a way to INTEGRATE it into your life. Stop worrying about balance, and making everything ‘equal’, and start thinking about what will provide you with growth, fulfilment and joy.
Lastly, don’t forget to re-evaluate! As you know, what works today won’t work tomorrow. A best practice we often share with clients is to add a “Personal Integration Assessment” into their Quarterly or 90 Day Planning. A systematized look back at how your integration choices are making you feel.
Because we need to start talking about fulfillment, and stop talking about balance.