The work-life balance is an obsolete concept

The term “work-life balance” was coined in the 1980s, and as a result, more companies began offering programs to support and facilitate families. Nowadays, the work-life balance is righteously an obsolete concept.

For the last few years, I have struggled to achieve harmony in different life aspects. The demands at work increased dramatically within the last two or three years and started gradually occupying more and more space in my life. This expansion left naturally less space, time and energy for other activities outside work. 

There is a plethora of articles, essays and research brimming with tips on maintaining a work-life balance. However, these tips not only didn’t help me but, on the contrary, increased my stress on achieving this balance. As I have not been managing to harmonise work and life, I was clearly doing the wrong thing.

How can I effectively juggle work, socialising, romantic relationship, and personal well-being without the guilts that accompany my failing efforts? My friends seemed to equally battle with the work-life balance concept. There is simply not enough time for everything.

A moment of revelation

While I have been trying out different models of balancing work and private life, pressure and guilt to perform successfully have been piling up. One day though, I came across an eye-opener phrase, so elementary in its nature but with tremendous gravitas: work-life balance is an obsolete concept. It simply does not exist. Stop trying to reach this goal.

 I cannot recall where I read this phrase, but I was delighted that, finally, someone was speaking the truth. Of course, work-life balance does not exist. It is high time we stopped beating ourselves up for missing the perfect balance.

Work-life balance is an obsolete concept

The term “work-life balance” insinuates that work and life are separate parts existing outside each other. Two parallel lines that never cross each other. Failure to accomplish this balance leads to stress, conflicts and burnout.

Lengthy research on this topic has shown that the lack of success in balancing work and life has led to the following:

  • Absenteeism. Due to limited free time after work, people often call in sick or take days off to manage appointments and tasks related to their private life.
  • Burnout. Employees suffer from stomachaches, headaches, mental and physical exhaustion, short temper, trouble sleeping and lack of productivity at work.
  • Promotion downturning. Employees nowadays are likely to turn down a promotion should they see that it prevents them from accomplishing activities outside work.

As the family composition nowadays is significantly different to the past decades, with the entrance of women in the working life -women now mostly work full time- it has become evident that such a balance cannot exist. Companies and human resources have started paying more attention to the interface of work and family life and its impact on the working environment.

On the other hand, the recent pandemic combined with technological advancements has shown that coupling work and life is significantly a more realistic and practical approach.

Work-life integration

For example, how often can appointments only occur during the day/afternoon hours? And how often do we put off visiting a doctor because his or her cabinet does not operate after our working time? Or viewing a new flat? Even missing or rescheduling meetings with our child’s teacher?

To answer the problem of the work-life balance concept, a new term has emerged: work-life integration. This term refers to a schedule that unites and supports work and life while the focus remains on the outcome and the quality of work.

Nevertheless, integration does not mean that there are no boundaries between work and life where the employee ends up working the whole day. On the contrary, the integration of work and life means that the employee can manage life activities and tasks during work hours without interfering with the quality of the work delivered at the end of the day.

Having acknowledged that, many companies are more and more taking steps toward facilitating work-life integration by:

  • Allowing the employees to work from home and create their own daily work schedule as long as they remain compliant with the work demands and requirements.
  • Providing staff yoga or pilates.
  • Offering courses on mindfulness, stress relief practices and healthy habits.
  • Creating a comfortable, attractive and stimulating working environment

In essence, integration means that our career supports our lifestyle instead of inhibiting it.

On the other hand, some people use the work-life balance to draw clear lines between working hours and leisure activities, such as hitting the gym, meeting friends, organising dinners, scheduling doctor appointments or running errands. This is definitely a topic up for debate.

I was relieved to find that the work-life balance is a somewhat obsolete concept and that other people out there feel exactly as I do about it. I immediately started feeling less pressure to perform according to the high standards the term “balance” carries.

Having said that, I acknowledge that not all professions provide space for such eligibility. However, all companies can modify their practices to focus on their employees’ well-being and offer stress-relief programs. Nobody is benefited from a person in a burnout state.

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