The ‘Mythical’ Quest For Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance has become like the unicorn of the corporate world. Everyone has heard of it, some claim to have seen it, but few can actually provide tangible evidence of its existence


Work-life balance is the most used (or ‘over-used’) term today. Work-life balance has become like the unicorn of the corporate world. Everyone has heard of it, some claim to have seen it, but few can actually provide tangible evidence of its existence. On a recent college visit, a conversation with a student made me reflect on this elusive beast.

After clocking in three decades in different industries, from manufacturing to consulting to technology, in various roles, you would probably think I’d have this whole "work-life balance" thing down to a science. Not yet, I still am struggling to understand it properly. Every time someone throws that term around, I feel like a novice chef trying to decipher a master chef’s recipe. Is it about the hours? The work quality? job satisfaction? personal happiness? Or maybe it is just another item to add to the ever-growing list of life’s unsolved mysteries (like the meaning of life)?

When this student boldly asked if our company offered this balance, I was tempted to ask, "Do you mean to ask if we also hand out fairy dust?” But instead, I turned the tables. I asked him to paint me a picture of his ideal work-life scenario. He answered that work should serve as a medium for personal happiness and he should have ample personal time.

It got me thinking about our new-age warriors, fresh out of college, are not even clocking in their first day, and they are already contemplating how work will sponsor their joy. What happened to the saying "doing what you love and never working a day in your life"? I did not know you were supposed to take it literally; until now, I always thought that it was just a saying to sell more inspirational posters.

Reminds me of a colleague I once had. Let's call him Frank. Frank would always stroll in 30 minutes late with a coffee in hand, arguing he was “striking a balance” by not starting his day in a rush. Funny enough, Frank’s work-life balance mantra did not seem to include meeting deadlines. But, hey, at least he had his mocha balance down.

Then there's Sarah (fictional name), a team lead, known for her passion for yoga. During an informal project meeting, she seamlessly transitioned into a yoga pose in the conference room. Some admired her commitment to personal well-being, while others pondered the evolving definition of 'workplace flexibility'.

Then there is the classic case of Mike, the tech guy. Mike’s idea of work-life balance was to work from home but to have his life activities in the backdrop of his video calls. We have all learned more about Mike’s personal life than we ever wanted to, from his cat's acrobatics to his son's penchant for superhero costumes.

While these anecdotes may seem amusing, they drive home a point. The idea of work-life balance has evolved into bizarre shades of personal definitions. While it is critical to prioritise mental and emotional well-being, the essence seems to be getting lost in translation.

Companies nowadays are stretching to offer nap pods, therapy puppies, and in-house masseuses. But are these the real indicators of balance? Or have we strayed so far off track that we have confused perks with genuine well-being?

Returning to the college lad, while his view on work-life balance seemed a bit premature, it is indicative of a broader sentiment. New generations are challenging the norms. They are not just looking for a paycheck but a holistic experience. And while that is commendable, it is also crucial to remember that achieving balance is a two-way street. Companies can lay the groundwork, but it is up to individuals to walk the path.

So, to anyone still hunting for that perfect work-life balance, remember this – it is less about the hours and more about the harmony. And maybe, if we stop chasing unicorns, we might just find what we are truly looking for.

Ending on a lighter note, if anyone does find that unicorn, give me a shout. I have got a student and a couple of colleagues who'd love a ride.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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