Our Approach to Work-Life Balance is Wrong

Why did the CEO start bringing a hula-hoop to work? To keep their ideas spinning!

Work is an integral part of life, and it should be. It provides us with the means to support ourselves and our families, and it allows us to contribute to society and pursue our passions. However, for many people, work is not a source of fulfillment or purpose. Instead, it is a “necessary evil”, something to be endured until they can afford to retire or pursue other interests.

Thankfully, this is changing, as more and more people are finding careers that align with their values and interests. However, even for those who love their work, the pressure to maintain a balanced life can be overwhelming. The traditional approach to “work-life balance” is to treat work as something separate from the rest of our lives - to be compartmentalized and limited to a certain number of hours each day.

This approach is wrong in my view. Work is not separate from life, it is part of life. You can have fun at work. And just like any other aspect of our lives, it simply requires prioritization. There will be times when we need to take time off for a doctor’s appointment or to pick up our kids from school. In these instances, we should have the freedom (without affecting the business) to do so, and it should be part of a company’s culture to support employees in this way. But this also means that we need to be prepared to deliver our work even outside of “traditional” working hours. This is part of the social contract we make with our colleagues. We agree to put in the time and effort necessary to meet our obligations and to achieve our goals.

It’s about knowing when to prioritize work, and when to prioritize other aspects of our lives. It’s about being present and engaged in everything we do. We need to embrace the performance culture that requires us to deliver our best in everything we do.

How should we approach it?

A balanced life is essential because it helps individuals maintain a healthy and fulfilling life.

Set boundaries: Decide on the hours that you will work, and stick to them as much as possible. Let your colleagues and manager know your schedule and explain the importance of your personal time. If you are doing a critical role and may have to address emergency issues, let you manager know how you wish to be contacted and have clear rules on what counts as an “emergency”.

Be productive: Prioritize your tasks, and use tools and techniques such as the Pomodoro technique to manage your time effectively.

Communicate with your manager: Talk to your manager about your needs and priorities. Ask for flexible work arrangements, such as the option to work from home, and your working hours.

Take breaks: Make sure to take regular breaks throughout the day to avoid burnout. Go for a walk, stretch, or simply step away from your work.

Be present: When you are at work, be fully present and engaged. When you are with friends and family, put your work aside and focus on them.