Questing for a perfect work-life balance can seem as elusive as the quest for the holy grail. It’s something companies love to talk about, but 66% of employees don’t think they have. Why is something as simple as having work-life balance so hard to achieve? A lot of it has to do with commonly held beliefs about work-life balance setting us up for failure. Here are four work-life balance myths busted:
Myth #1: Work is always the enemy
We have entire meme accounts dedicated to hating work. We’ve coined the term “Sunday scaries” to talk about the anxiety we face going back into work every Monday. We have people in our lives who are counting down until retirement because “a job is just a job”. We’ve formed this collective consciousness that the less time we’ll be at work, the happier we’ll be. But this doesn’t have to be true. Work shouldn’t be viewed as something to escape from and the “life” part of work-life balance isn’t all sunshine and puppies. Both come with their unique ups and downs, but they can play equally fulfilling roles in our lives. Our concept of balance needs to take into account that both work and life have their positives and negatives. There isn’t one enemy.
Myth #2: Work-life balance is just on you
Blaming a person for a poor work-life balance isn’t entirely fair. It’s influenced by both the person and the company. People often wrap up their identity and satisfaction in what they do at work. They spend a large amount of their life at work questing for success and there’s nothing wrong with this. But people often overlook just how much the company itself champions or prohibits work-life balance. This is seen in everything including benefits, company culture, flexibility, and even tech policies. Think of the people in your life that might have unlimited vacation days but never take any because it’s not a company norm. Or the person that arbitrarily can’t work from home on occasion or is expected to answer their phone 24/7. This all is set by the company itself, not the person.
Myth #3: Work-life balance is a perfect 50/50 split
Work-life balance is thought of as a scale that needs to be perfectly balanced with no tradeoffs or spillover. Your work will perfectly fold into the allotted 9-5 time slot and your life will be the #1 priority every night and weekend. This perfection is not only impossible, but harmful to strive for. Work and life are full of tradeoffs. You might grab a drink with friends and not quite finish that presentation you should have. Going off to a conference might sacrifice a family event. There is a natural ebb and flow. On top of this, having a one size fits all solution is impossible. When you’re younger, your priorities might skew towards work. Maybe they’ll switch towards life when you start a family. It’s all about figuring out a relationship between work and life that works for you, not finding a perfect split.
Myth #4: Work-life balance is taboo to talk about
People clam up when it comes to work-life balance. They think admitting they leave work at 5 PM every day might indicate they don’t care about their job. Or that talking to their boss about overtime demands means you’re not up to par. Work-life balance is something that should be talked about. Whether it’s in an interview when you’re scoping out a job or brought up to your boss in an annual review, there is no shame in admitting you have priorities outside of work.
Now that we have a better understanding of what work-life balance is and isn’t, next time we’ll go over tips to achieve a better relationship between work and life in your current role.