Forget Work-Life Balance
The top 25 companies for Work-Life Balance were just announced by the employment website Glassdoor.com. There are tech companies, financial services companies, and even two iconic oil companies. Congrats! Since it is based on surveys of employees, it probably means that people in those organizations feel valued, well-treated and not as though they need to apologize for having families and commitments outside of work. All good stuff.
It’s amazing that all employers don’t see the value in creating that kind of culture (happy employees equal greater levels of engagement and loyalty; we’re not exactly splitting the atom here). Still, it’s funny how that quality is defined as “work-life balance.” It’s funny because if you really think about it, “work-life balance” makes a rhetorical separation between two things that can’t be separated. So you have work over here and life over there.
Does that mean on Monday morning you stop living and go to work? I know some people would say, “it sure feels that way.” So stipulated, but it’s not true and if we want to understand how things really work and how they can be improved, the words we use to discuss those things really do matter. Work is part of life. So are family and friendships and commuting and taking the dog to the vet and credit card bills and the last episodes of Breaking Bad and a gajillion other things that also require balance for healthy living.
We should never lose sight of the fact that work, while important, is just one part of life. Our challenge and the challenge for employers and employees alike is to bring joy and balance to all of it by realizing that every life is made up of countless moving parts all capable of throwing off that critical balance and sending the whole delicate mechanism spinning out of control.
For the individual, that means making time for all the important stuff: rest, exercise, your kids’ dance recitals and spending time having fun with the people who keep you sane (and yes, sometimes drive you crazy). For the employer, it means learning something from those 25 on the list, i.e., when people feel valued and encouraged to live outside of work, it tends to make them more–not less–engaged on the job, because these are people who connect the work part of their lives with the things and the people for whom they’re really working. It’s not work and life. It’s just life. Keep it in balance and enjoy it all.