Work-life balance, like many things, is something that can only be defined by the person seeking it. There’s no magic formula that will apply to everyone (though there will undoubtedly be some way of tying the Fibonacci sequence into it) and it will rely on your definitions of work, life and even balance. Work-life balance is an ever-evolving concept that will change as your work and home lives do.
We’ve all heard stories of people working 20-hour days to get their business up and running, launch a new product, or just because they’re so engaged with what they’re doing. In a new start-up, the expectations around putting in long hours and sacrificing your home life will be far greater than working for a well-established company. If you’re the founder or someone hired early in the business’s life, then your time will, by and large, be dominated by building the company. Your home life won’t be exempt from being interrupted by work in the same way a person who clocks in and out at 9am and 5pm.
In 2018, the idea of sitting in the office from dawn until dusk is considered old-fashioned in theory, but it doesn’t mean the expectations of workers have lessened. For every story of a workplace, usually in some idyllic Scandinavian country, that doesn’t have any set hours of time spent in the office, there are many more where the concept of work-life balance means more time spent at work, but with a table tennis set and a staff shower.
Your personality will be another factor in what you consider to be a good balance. For some, 16 hours working is their happy place, while for other people, anything beyond the standard eight is a fate too miserable to bear. If you find your job rewarding and engaging, small things like free fruit and gym discounts will seem like perks and may help you achieve a sense of balance, but if you don’t enjoy what your do or simply see it as a means to an end, all the perks in the world won’t make extra hours seem like anything but a sacrifice.
Age and your life commitments will also define what you consider ‘balance’. When you’re younger, your workmates often become your social circle and spending time in your office or workplace can feel like spending time with your friends. The long hours become a bonding experience and it can create a strong culture of camaraderie if done right. Naturally, as you get older, your personal life changes and spending more time away from work with family, friends and other interests, becomes a bigger priority.
Balance isn’t a single point to aim for, but a constantly changing concept that will ebb and flow as your home life and job do. The most important aspects of your life when you’re 20 won’t necessarily be the same when you reach 30, and will again be different at 40, 50 and 60. Achieving a sense of balance won’t always be possible and it won’t always feel the same, instead it is something that can be worked on as a constant project. The focus shouldn’t be simply about finding the magic numbers, but ensuring that when you’re drained you have things to recharge you. Constantly attempting to ‘solve’ the question won’t get you any closer and misses the point of balance.