"The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and play, his labor and leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation... He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both."-James Michener, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author
Sixty years ago the balance between time at work and time outside of work wasn't much of an issue. Of course that is an over simplification, but it's not far from the truth. The industrial age pushed us towards structure and work shifts, and the rise of working unions greatly restricted working hours for most employees. Few women worked outside the home, and life was just a bit less hassled. Today we live in a much different time and economy. Our balance between work and home life is being bombarded by all kinds of factors such as a down economy, changing competitive landscape in the US, globalization, technology, and even a changing family structure. Kids are more active and "busy" these days while technology keeps us all constantly connected. This leads to a constant demand on our time and a difficult struggle to balance.
It seems the prevailing knowledge now is to tackle creating this coveted balance. People have been working hard to wall off areas, attempting to sesperate work and life from each other. Working against change factors of technology and globalization that have brought down countries and ruined century old businesses, the modern family is attempting stand tall in the face of change... and I'm not sure it's working very well. Attempting to wall and segment life doesn't seem to be the answer at all.
Of course we Millennials aren't the first generation in history to struggle with work life balance. US laor stats show that the work and life balance issues, as reflected in job stress studies, are gaining steam. They rocketed to life in he 1980's and have been increasing ever since. Things are busy and unpredictable in life and work, and this creates a mountain of uncertainty and confusion. The average amount of hours worked per week in the US is about 47 these says, depending on what research you are referencing. Some place the average close to 51 or 52 hours per week. Keep in mind this is the average, meaning many people are working well over 50 hours every week. Often the problem these days is not simply the "work" hours, but the hours outside of work that we continue to spend connected through technology or stress. As I mentioned before, we attempt to silo ourselves off but is becoming an impossible task in today's economy.
So what are we to do about the issues? With these mounting pressures in both work and life, finding any sort of balance can seem like an excersie in futility. Well I can say this one thing for sure, I don't have this figured out yet. I don't have the answers, and I can't say with certainty how to fix the issue. In fact in my life it's just becoming more and more complicated as I begin to have kids. What I do know is it's time to for a different approach. I think it's time to explore embracing change instead of standing against it. I think the future is in organizations that can engage people and support them in a way that work and life don't have to be so separate. Author and business consultant Joseph Michelli writes, "while some companies talk about work/life balance, Zappos talks about work/life integration." At Zappos they view growing, happy, engaged, employees as good for the company in general. They are focused on happy people more than happy employees.
I think the future, at least for me, is in rectifying work and life together instead of trying to silo it off. It's in doing what I love and am passion about all the time, not out of self service but out of the need to simplify and sustain. As I mentioned before, I don't have the answer to this but I do know that my future won't be sustainable attempting this silo type approach of the recent past. It just seems much too difficult in this day and economy to completely separate work and life. I think, instead, I need to integrate and get to a place where I have mastered life in a way that I am always working and playing. I'll leave it to others to define the separation if they so choose.
What are your thoughts on work/life balance?