Work life balance…you probably have it wrong.

balanceWe have all heard the phrase ‘work life balance’. But what does it actually mean?

Most of us simply think of it as the time we don’t spend in the office versus the time we do. The more biased it is to one side of the ledger, the better or worse. But that is just a small element of what work life balance really is. (I can’t be bothered typing ‘work life balance’ anymore so will shorten it to WLB…because what the recruitment industry desperately needs is another three letter acronym !).

To me, WLB is much much more than simply the hours you work and where you work them. It is more than the number of day’s holidays you get a year. It is more than starting late so you can drop the kids off at school, finishing early on a Friday or being allowed to work from home one day a week. In fact it is not really about any of that stuff.

Of course these things are important and contribute to WLB. But none of them alone will give you a positive WLB…… not if you cannot stand the work you do, or you have a horrible boss, or you are so busy that you have to work every evening, or so stressed that you spend your day a nervous wreck (even if you are in your pyjamas working from your sofa) etc. If you are dealing with these type of things then it doesn’t matter about any of the other nice stuff…..your job is still going to have a negative effect on your life.

Without trying to be too funky hippy hipster about it , think of WLB in a more holistic and emotional way. It is about where your job fits in with your whole life, how you feel when you get up in the morning, how you sleep at night, whether it makes you challenged and rewarded, what opportunities it presents you, whether you feel good about yourself and whether you spend most of your day smiling or being stressed!

The WLB topic is usually part of any discussion I will have with a candidate or a client looking for staff. Employers are becoming more flexible with things like working hours and people are increasingly looking for employers who can offer them the Silicon Valley style employment. That’s all well and good. But don’t automatically think that being allowed to work from home one day a week will give you a better life, or a happier and more productive staff. It won’t if the rest of it isn’t also in balance….

And a final word on the subject…from someone who puts it much better than me….

A recruiter (a very good one I should add) that I met recently was telling me a story of being continually told off by his boss  for ‘having too much fun at work’. “What the hell are you doing laughing and joking.This is my business” …to which the recruiter responded “Well, this is my life”.

 

Luke Collard

2 thoughts on “Work life balance…you probably have it wrong.”

  1. Good one, Luke. Great to see somebody speaking plain common senses on this topic. WLB (of course we need another three letter acronym in recruitment) is about the experience you have in everything to do around work; thinking about it, preparing for it, doing it, whether at home or a cafe or wherever etc. Does work fit with your values? Does work allow you to be the person you really are?

    I read a good article on this topic that argued that Work Life Integration was a better term than WLB. The ‘Balance’ aspect can immediately conjure up the issues of hours worked and flexibility but it is, as you rightly point out, so much more than that.

    1. Thanks Ross – WLB (or WLI !) will become more and more of a hot topic as younger generations enter the workforce with different expectations of how and where ‘work’ fits in with their life. And it will be a more holistic viewpoint where ‘work’ and ‘life’ are not separate entities but all part of the same thing. And as the traditional employment model often doesn’t fit in with that, there will be a genuine opportunity for those businesses who recognise this and are prepared to be creative and brave to get ahead of their competition.

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