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What is work-life balance? Definition and meaning

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What is work-life balance? Definition and meaning

This post is the second in a series looking at Work Life Balance. The purpose of these articles is to explore work life balance, assess where you are now and focus on how to successfully combine work, family, relationships, leisure time and health into a satisfying, fulfilled life just by making small but effective changes.

To read the first in the series – Are you struggling with work life balance?

We talk about our professional lives and our personal lives as if they can be separated. The truth is you have one life to live. The balance between your work and life is a reflection of the balance within you. Work/life balance gives you a barometer for your personal and professional well-being.

What is this thing called work life balance? You hear about it everywhere; you read about it; and you long for it. But what is it? What does it look like? Is it possible for normal people with jobs, families, hobbies, and multiple internal and external commitments to achieve balance in the modern world?

The answer is, of course, a resounding yes!

For most people, a balanced life means having optimal time to give to their families, their work, their communities, and their extracurricular activities. It also means enough money or compensation to be able to meet all the basic needs of existence and to save for future needs and desires.

For most people, work consumes the majority of their days, and they have to fit in family, shopping, health, and more into their remaining time. Diet and optimal sleep frequently suffer when people are trying to do everything they need or want to do in a limited amount of “free” time. Relationships also suffer. Exercise often becomes non existent.

We are going to look at finding balance in your life. Although it seems a daunting task to slow down enough to consider and contemplate achieving balance, it is a task worth doing—one that will improve your life in expected ways, but also in ways that may surprise you.

What Is Work Life Balance From The Individuals Perspective?

Before we can look at how work life balance is affecting you, and before we can look at solutions we need to look at what we mean by work life balance.

We will start by looking at it from an individual’s perspective. In other words what work life balance means to you.

Work life balance is a broad concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) on one hand and “life” (Health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development) on the other.

It is how well we juggle all our responsibilities.

Let’s look at some more work life definitions.

A form of conflict in which the roles from the work and family domains are mutually incompatible in some respect. That is, participation in the work (family) role is made more difficult by virtue of participation in the family (work) role (Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985).

The successful balancing of professional responsibilities with personal priorities, including spouse or significant other, family, personal and spiritual growth, and physical health.

Work life balance is the equilibrium between an individual’s priorities at work and their priorities in other aspects of life. With good work life balance, work/home conflict is minimised so that the demands of work do not prevent a person from gaining satisfaction from their life outside work, while aspects of their personal life do not spill over to exert a negative impact on their work.

Enough of the definitions! It’s a measure of how satisfied we are with life!

Basically we are talking about when your work life, personal life and all the other important areas are complimenting each other. So the concept of work life balance is based on the notion that paid work and personal life should be seen less as competing elements and rather complimentary elements of a full life.

Let’s face facts we need work to survive, to bring us security, safety. This is what allows us to sample other areas of life. The money we earn brings value to us. We all need work, and for many this is something we love doing. The problem comes when our work takes over our life. Where the time we spend there far exceeds the norm. 40 hours is healthy I suppose, 60/70/80 hours a week, that’s what risks your health, relationships, sanity. When we get to that place that when we are not at work we keep thinking about it, the things we could be doing if were there, that’s when we know it’s becoming an unhealthy situation. We end up unable to spend enough focused time on our family or on ourselves.

Of course work is important. But so is your health, as are your relationships. You don’t want any of them to break down. You need everything to work together, in balance.

The best work life balance will be different for each person. We are all individuals, different in our own unique ways. There is no one size fits all in work life balance. We aren’t looking for a text book answer, but a practical solution. I’m going to give you lots of potential solutions. Some will work for you, others won’t. My intentions are that 50% of those I provide will have practical usage for you, and implementing them will bring about the change required resulting in a far healthier, happier work life balance for you.

Please, also remember, over time things do change. What worked for me in my 20’s doesn’t now in my 50’s. I have to adapt my approach. The optimum work life balance will not remain static but will vary over time. This makes it essential for you to take time out on a regular basis to check whether all the areas in your life are in balance, or whether you’re neglecting any, or focusing too much time on some. We will be looking at this in a later article. Our lives are dynamic and ever-changing, and our work life balance has to be dynamic too. The right balance for you today may not be the right balance for you tomorrow or next week or next month, because over time your life and your priorities change

I also want to counter the argument that work life balance means there’s a clear 50-50 split between time at work and time away from work. Work life balance does not mean that there must be equal balance across all aspects of an individual’s life. Things can’t work like that, maybe in a perfect world, but not in the real world. You can spend more time doing one than the other. What’s important is you’re not neglecting any. The other thing, is that when you are spending time away from work, that you focus on what you’re doing and not keep your mind in its work mode. A break is a break. Away in body needs to be away in mind. 100% focus on what you’re doing and the people you’re doing it with.

Work life balance is not about creating a 50-50 balance between work and home. If you’ve ever had a sick child or a whirlwind business trip, you know that 50-50 balance is impossible to maintain. Trying to schedule an equal number of hours for each of your various work and personal activities is usually unrewarding and unrealistic. Life is and should be more fluid than that. But you’ve got to make sure you’re not ignoring any areas. That’s what is most crucial. We will look at these areas shortly. You can spend more time doing one, but when you focus only on that disaster appears soon after. You are the one that will know what split best works for you. But you will also know when you are spending a disproportionate time on one specific area. By looking, analysing, you can make the necessary adjustments to bring about balance, which will pay you back many times over from the benefits it will bring.

Finding balance between “work” and a personal life is a significant issue one of which you can sort out satisfactorily and healthily. Finding the answers that work for you is what I intend happening.

Think of the Work/Life Ratio as a see-saw. If you are not spending sufficient time on work, you will be stuck permanently and uncomfortably at the bottom of the swing, struggling for money unable to pay your bills. If, however your work percentage soars, where every hour is spent working, you will permanently be high in the air, dangerously unbalanced – with your feet never touching the ground, where your relationships, health and personal life are damaged. If you are hovering around the 50%/50% equilibrium level you will always be able to push yourself up for a while, or down for a while, as the demands of your work and family demands dictate.

A Red Heart With Coins On A Seasaw

When your work life imbalance becomes a problem, the price you pay can be very high. It will create a Work Life Conflict which is where your different roles aren’t working together, in fact they’re in conflict, incompatible with one another, where your work is coming in conflict with being a spouse, parent or with other religious and leisure activities. Not a good place to be! This could cost you in your marriage, friendships, health or even in your business. Another great reason to sort things out right now before they are allowed to get worse. Don’t pay a heavy price by ignoring this. Instead work through this series of articles and get your life into a good balance. Simple!

This is not just for people at the extreme level. People who seem never to stop working, never to stop thinking about their work, never to stop talking about their work and worrying themselves sick – sometimes literally sick – about their work; people who consequently devote far too little time and attention to their families and their personal lives. A work life balance is important to everyone, unless of course you are living a totally stress free life.

In today’s world, it is essential that we all focus on our life balance. To be happy it is essential we balance and integrate everything we need and want to do each day, week, month and year. This includes making a living, time with our family, friends plus time for us and time for anything else we want to accomplish. This is what will determine whether our future is a good one or bad. Build a life where everything works together, nothing is left to chance.

Now we’ve looked at the definition of work life balance let’s just touch on the Benefits.

The Benefits Of Achieving Work Life Balance

Achieving balance in your life can bring you amazing rewards. You can expect some or all of the following changes and improvements in your life as you move into balance:

  • Improved health, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Less stress
  • More happiness
  • More energy
  • Improved quality of life
  • Better relationships
  • Improved concentration
  • More free time
  • Potentially longer lifespan
  • Sustainable health
  • Simplicity in your life

There undoubtedly are many reasons to make this a must do for you. A work life balance is advantageous to every one.

In the next section we will look at the signs of an unhealthy work-life balance.

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I hope you took some great value out of this post today! I’d love to hear your feedback, so make sure you leave a comment with your thoughts or questions.


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About the author: Larry Lewis
I'm Larry. As an Executive Life Coach, entrepreneur and writer, I am an unshakable optimist dedicated to helping you become the person you most want to be. I am devoted to sharing ideas, tools and resources that will help you create a better, stress free, well balanced life.

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