The conversation around work-life balance needs to change from balancing to blending if we are going to sustainably increase the quality of our daily lives.
An American Sociological Review study found that seven out of ten US workers struggle with work-life balance. And it is a struggle.
The term work-life balance implies there is a holy grail way to live life and work in specified portions that will output a good quality of life. Whilst traditionally we looked at time spent at work versus outside of work. High performers are working in a different way.
Today I woke up and did a routine of my five minute journal, exercise, shower and got dressed. I made breakfast for myself and children and we all got ready to visit a high school for my eldest child. After the tour, I dropped both children off at school and went to work.
At work I had emails to respond to, a presentation to write and a brochure to complete, whilst organising myself for a dinner party we are hosting day after tomorrow. After picking up children, having dinner with the family (dishes are still in the sink) and finishing up with some bedtime cuddles with our boys, I’m now back on my computer writing this article and finishing off a few emails before I cuddle up with my husband and go to bed.
There was no “this is work time” and “this is family time” – it was a blend.
Work-life blend is like making a smoothie with different ingredients depending on what you have in the fridge that day. Some days you have more banana, other days more berries, most days there’s some base milk ingredient. Depending on the day and the ingredients, the mix will be different. Some days the smoothie tastes better than others. Over time you work out proportions that regularly make it taste good, more of the time.
How To Work-life blend (FEE):
Flexibility – Just like no ONE ingredient alone makes for a good smoothie, we have multiple areas to focus on that contribute to a good quality of life. Understanding there is no ONE area or absence of ONE area that provides a magic fix to daily life, helps you reduce the dichotomy thinking of work OR family; health OR work; family OR friends. To be happy and healthy with a good quality of life you need flexibility in the way you think – what if life could be about work AND family, for example. Believing both can work well together is the first step to problem solving how to make it work for everyone.
Expectations – Rather than having high expectations of what a day will be like when you wake up and then feeling disappointed when it’s not, work-life blend manages expectations and works with whatever is thrown into the mix that day. Some days will have more children and children related things in the mix, for example if a child is sick. Some days will be more work tasks when there is a goal to meet. Other days will be health driven if that happens to be the priority. And most days there is blend of them all. This is realistic.
Energy – If you are constantly looking for ways to have less time at work and more time for your passion, you are asking yourself the wrong questions. Those that succeed at work-life blend, don’t necessarily work shorter hours, in fact they often work long hours. The key difference is they seek activities at work and home that energise them and wherever possible, reduce the ones that drain their energy. For example, Matt is an IT subject matter expert who now leads a team. Whilst he enjoys his leadership role for the most part, every now and then he energises himself by getting involved in a project that allows him to roll up his sleeves and get technical. He takes this energy into the rest of his work and home.
Have a think about your blend…what might need tweaking so you enjoy the day-to-day more?