40@40: Embrace Work as Part of an Integrated and Balanced Life

I get up at seven and I go to work at nine. I got no time for living, yes, I’m working all the time.

Rush

Work / Life “Balance”

I remember when I first heard the Human Resources buzzword “Work / Life Balance.” The term made me cringe back then, and I hate it even more today.

First of all, why is HR so interested in helping employees find this “balance” between working and non-working hours? On the surface, like most HR initiatives, it appears as though your employer is being altruistic and genuinely cares about your well-being.

Think about it though, isn’t this whole “Work / Life Balance” thing just a ploy to get you to give more of yourself to the company while at the same time convincing yourself that you’re OK with it because you’ve achieved HR’s vision of what a balanced life looks like?

“Hey, I may be missing my kid’s Little League game because I’m sitting in the bleachers with my face buried in my smartphone reading work emails on a weekend, but HR tells me I have to balance ‘work’ with ‘life’ so I guess I’m doing it right.”

Big corporations are beholden to shareholders, not you. They will take and take until you have nothing left to give, and then they will spit you out and find someone younger and cheaper to replace you.

We are all responsible for finding our own balance. Don’t let some company tell you what’s right for you.

Work / Life “Integration”

Another thing I loathe about the term “Work / Life Balance” is that it assumes that we have to turn one off to enjoy the other. Why does there have to be this dichotomy between “work” and “life?” Aren’t we all just living one life?

I first heard the term “Work / Life Integration” when I came across a post that my friend Scott Hess published on LinkedIn about how millennials work. If anything, I have embraced the concept of viewing work and personal space as being essentially one and the same, and it is more representative of the views emerging from the younger generations entering the workforce and establishing careers.

One of Scott’s key points is that we live in a world where it’s nearly impossible to turn it off anymore. We are always on, we are always connected.

Because we live in this on-demand world, we don’t have many opportunities to just turn off “work” and focus on “life.” The line between the two blurs, as our devices are now straddling what we once viewed as two distinct worlds, and work doesn’t just happen in the office from 9-5…it becomes a part of everything we do, essentially merging “work” and “life” into a single context.

An Integrated Life

Moving beyond the discussion of whether work is something that we need to wall off or if it’s something that we can find a way to work into the other contexts we have to manage in our lives, are we saying that “life” is what we want to do, and “work” is what we have to do?

What about those of use who actually enjoy our work and get satisfaction from it? Even if we do hate our jobs, do we have to put up this artificial barrier between working hours and home hours, or can take the good with the bad and find a way to even it all out?

After having kids, I dropped out of the corporate world and went completely independent so that I could take ownership of my own balanced life and be active in my kids’ lives. I could not imagine having to ask another human being for permission to take time off just to do the things that are important to me like attending school events, coaching baseball, or just taking my kids out to lunch every now and again.

Even when I’m not working, I find myself surrounded by people that I have been connected with through work and work related events. Some of my best friends in the world are people I worked with, and I even met my now ex-wife through a work function.

What we do for our livelihood is just one of many plates that we have to keep spinning in our lives. Why not view earning an income as one of the myriad moving pieces we have to manage in our lives and focus on a holistic approach to a balanced life that leads us to joy and satisfaction?

We all have one life, we all have to find our own balance. Why not embrace work as a key part of it?