The Unattainable Work-Life Balance

Written by guest blogger Lorrie Howard, Horizon Point Consulting

Is our elusive hunt for a work-life balance causing us undue stress in our lives and the lives of those around us?

Generation X introduced the philosophy of the work-life balance in the 1970’s, and organizations and employees alike have spent the last few decades searching for that balance. But can anyone say they’ve found it?

The major flaw with the work-life balance philosophy is that it’s based on the premise that your work self and your life self are two separate entities and to achieve balance, you must maintain that separation and seek a level of equality between the two.

A study published in 2015 by the Harvard Business School and Stanford University showed that workplace stress can be just as harmful as second-hand smoke. If we’re bringing that stress home, imagine the impact it must have on our families.

It took my thirteen-year-old son’s insight to show me that the struggle to achieve a work-life balance doesn’t just affect those trying to achieve it, it also affects everyone around them. About a year after moving to Huntsville from Northern Virginia I asked him if he was glad we moved. He told me that he was glad we moved and that his friends here were very different than his friends in Virginia. He explained how his friends here are more laid back, he could be more open with them without fear of them judging him, and how his friends from Northern Virginia were much more rigid and easily offended. His response both shocked me and made me realize just how much of an impact living in the rat race of the D.C. area had on my children.

As the Indian Yogi and Poet Sadhguru said “There is no such thing as work-life balance- it is all life. The balance has to be within you.”

The reality is that our work self and life self are two parts of the same whole and can never be fully separated. The Millennials have figured this out and taken the work-life balance philosophy and given it an overhaul. They have introduced us to the work-life integration philosophy. The work-life integration philosophy is a more synergistic approach, in which we must learn to blend our work self and life self into one cohesive unit.

Many organizations are starting to buy into this concept and provide benefits to help employees integrate their work-life selves.

  • Evernote, a software company, provides their 250+ full-time employees with bi-weekly housecleaning services free of charge, $1000 annual vacation stipends, and a baby bonding program that provides an additional six weeks of paid leave.
  • SC Johnson & Son provides employees with concierge services, on-site childcare, flexible work hours & compressed work weeks.
  • Google provides on-site physicians, free lunches, massages, car washes, up to 12 weeks of paid leave, as well as $500 in “Baby Bonding Bucks” for new parents.

While these examples are from larger companies, there are benefits that smaller employers can offer as well. I currently work with a client that offers their employees PTO hours in addition to vacation time. These hours are to be used for things such as doctor’s appointments, hair appointments, and parent-teacher conferences. They also provide a car wash service that comes onsite and employees can pay to have their car washed while they work.

What benefits can your organization offer employees to help them achieve a work-life integration and reduce stress?


Guest Blogger

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