When did work-life balance become such a bad thing?

The term work-life balance has taken a beating lately. It seems to be a favorite punching bag for grandstanding about what you really need is integration or that balance is a mirage anyway. Wat?

Balance simple means that each portion of the system has a sustainable weight which keeps the composition in harmony. Going down a pedantic, semantic rabbit hole of “well, actually, work is part of life, ergo seeking balance is wrong” is some perfidy circular logic.

It’s possible to enjoy, like, or even love work, and yet also appreciate life away from work. Appreciate the breaks and the distance from work that rewards us with perspective. Scheduling such regular breaks by limiting the hours spent working during a normal week, and taking plenty of vacation away from it entirely, is not some exotic, impossible arrangement. It’s the pursuit of just that balance.

So let’s take a break from worksplaining the concept of work-life balance into a negation. Balance is neither bad nor impossible. It’s the cornerstone of a healthy, productive, and sustainable state of being.

8 thoughts on “When did work-life balance become such a bad thing?

  1. I agree with your point David. Work life balance is crucial to a healthy life. This idea that your work must be your identity and therefore it must envelope every aspect of your life is just not realistic or healthy. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’m someone who works hard to create a clear divide between my work life and my non-work life, but I’ve learned a lot of people don’t value or understand the dichotomy. Some people devote all of themselves to their work, and manage to do it in a healthy way, so more power to them. But I have to imagine some of the complaints about companies lacking work-life balance could be traced to the people running an organization being the “work is life” type.

  3. Back in the day I had a boss that took the life/work divide very seriously. He took it to the sense, “Someone better be bleeding” to interrupt his workday, and “the building better be burning down” to interrupt his time away from work. To some this may seem an extreme take on separating life/work but for him he used it to produce during work hours and to devote his time to his family and other relationships during his off hours. It worked well for him and I think it highlights what we all need clear and present boundaries.

  4. Hey, David! Thanks for sharing. This is such a simple concept, but not always easy. I recently went from using one cell phone for both work and personal to getting a second phone so that I can turn work off and just have a phone solely for personal use. It’s made a major impact on the time I dedicate to my family & actually taking a break from work. Sometimes we get so caught up in work that we forget that its “just a job.”

  5. so, i guess what you’re saying is not so much “work-life balance” which does seem to imply that work and life are somehow different, but simply…”life balance.” that, yeah, what you do for work is part of who you are, and it’s a huge part of your life and may even be the best vehicle for an individual’s contribution to others/community. but it’s not the only part of your identity, or your life. too much separation leads to weird shit that’s like “it’s not personal, it’s business;” and not enough separation leads to “i am what i do and so imma make these sales calls during dinner, k?”

  6. I’ve always kept the idea of “work to live rather than live to work” in mind. The balance fluctuates, but keeping this common sense premise at the forefront is key. And doing something you love for work can make all the difference!

  7. I like to use another term.

    I like to use professional and private as a term. I also have work in my private life.

    What we need is a sustainable way of using and rebuilding our Energy, attention, and money to be able to use our time so that it serves us.

    To build energy you need rest.

    Where I’m struggling with is that the approach of David seems to me a minimalistic approach. I like to think in terms of optimizing vs minimizing.

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