It seems our work-life balance problem is out of control. With increased connectivity and a desire for career success, our lives have become messy, full and complicated. Everyone has something to say about work-life balance and how to fix it. Doctors offer tips on how to achieve the mysterious balance and self-help gurus write an endless amount of books discussing the topic. Even the Australian Government’s Fair Work Ombudsman has something to say about it!
It’s clear: we have a work-life balance problem.
Safework SA defines work-life balance as: “the relationship between your work and the commitments in the rest of your life, and how they impact on one another.” And that impact can have dire consequences when control is lost.
Work-life balance is essential for all of us, yet it’s difficult to master. Why? Because it is so very complex.
This short video explains it well:
We all know someone who has the sleep>eat>work cycle and how it affects their social relationships – we really don’t like to hang out with those people. Most people have chosen a different approach and in general their lives are better for it. However, it means work-life balance is a very real thing that needs to be managed.
Most of all though, the work-life balance problem is an issue across all of society. We all feel the negative effects of the imbalance, be it personally or by someone close to us.
The Underlying Work-life Balance Problem
Kylie Hammond from Hammond Executive explains:
We exist in a culture where it is implied that we can ‘have it all’ but often the cost of this is that we constantly operate in a state of overwhelm as we spread ourselves too thinly across each of the areas in our lives.
The ‘have it all’ culture we’ve created is slowly destroying us, with the solutions provided making little to no improvement for the majority of people.
If you scan the internet and explore the strategies given to overcome the troubled work-life balance, there are some commonalities between them. Regular exercise, partake in your hobbies more and drop the things that sap your energy. These are all commonplace suggestions. But will these activities really make any difference over the long term? I doubt it.
There are two main reasons we have a work-life balance problem:
- Because we’re unable to determine (and implement) adequate boundaries that protect the things that are most important to us.
- We’re after a quick fix of simple to apply solutions, when what’s required is a more fundamental examination of ourselves, lifestyle and choices.
Something more foundational needs to occur if we’re to achieve the lifestyle we love. Therefore, if all we do is implement solutions based around the external problems of our work-life balance, we will eventually fall prey to the things that wore us down in the first place. It can become a vicious cycle.
Instead, I propose we dig deeper on an individual level and ask ourselves:
- why do I feel compelled to work so much?
- what does fulfilling work look like to me?
- why am I unable to say no to people when they demand more of me?
- if my family is as important as I say it is, why don’t I make it a priority?
- would I take a job/career that offers a better work-life balance?
- why do I want to climb the corporate ladder?
- how important is my long term health and wellbeing?
…and the list could go on.
The team at mindhealthconnect.org.au give some great tips in a similar vain:
Know your values. Spend some time thinking about what is important to you in life. How much time do you actually spend on the most important priorities? Consider your passions and interests and make time for the things that make you feel alive.
When we ask these deeper questions and explore the fundamental reasons for our out-of-whack lives, we’ll eventually get to a place where we can make choices based upon real understanding of who we are and what’s most important to us.
As a coach, these are the types of questions I ask that really get to the heart of the matter. Our answers to these questions provide a solid platform for goal setting, habit creation and future planning to occur.
As a result, we’ll better understand ‘work’ and ‘life’ and the importance of each. We’ll be able to set in place the adequate boundaries required to take the path that brings the greatest joy, meaning and purpose.