Work/Life Balance is one of the biggest buzz words in the human resources and leadership circles these days, and one that I most often causes me severe cringing when I hear the words.
Why do I cringe? Because so often the conversation is so surface level, it doesn’t address the systemic root of the problem. And by not addressing the root of the issue, it often leaves people dismissing the very idea of “Work/Life Balance” as some kind of woo-woo, out of touch concept with real leaders, who are up to real things.
Here’s what Work/Life Balance is not about. It’s not about spending equal times at work and at home. It’s not about only working 9-5 and never working on weekends or after hours. It’s not about out of office responders or vacation days or holidays.
What it is about, is learning to create a balanced experience of life where your actions at work and at home are driven by your commitment and intentions.
So often, people are driven by their fears at work and at home, rather than honoring who they intend to be at work and in life.
At work, people are constantly living in fear that they haven’t done enough. They fear that if they haven’t done enough, they will lose their job or lose favor. In order to combat that fear and guilt, they work harder and harder. The deeper the fear, the harder they work, the less balance.
Living with the idea that whatever they do, it is never good enough, there is no amount of working that will be enough. This creates an imbalance at work where the drive for action at work isn’t getting the job done, it’s about combating the feeling that one isn’t doing enough. This creates an endless and exhausting cycle.
At home, similar feelings come up. There is basically no amount of being enough. I’ve seen this so often with parents who work full time. Of course they are committed to being great parents, but typically, they create perfect ideals about who they would be if they were a perfect parent; And then measure themselves by this unrealistic perfect standard.
The result is that people feel like they aren’t good enough at work or at home. They feel like they are losing on both fronts. The best it gets is feeling successful in one area and poor in another area. And, it all ends up feeling like a big juggling act, where the balls could all drop the moment you let your focus and attention slip.
Creating real work/life balance is essential to being a great leader and building winning organizations. However, it’s not about surface level issues of time off and email hours, although those can help.
What it’s really about is learning to trust yourself and to work at creating a loving and empowering relationship to yourself. Work/Life Balance is about creating a sense of trust and confidence in yourself, focusing on the big picture commitments and letting go of the constant sense of doubt, fears and guilt that you aren’t enough.