Work-life balance is dead. Strong statement? Yes. Given that for most of the last few decades we have been fighting for the elusive balance. 8 hours office. 9 to 5. Compartmentalized personal and professional lives. Work and play did not blend. Repeating the all work and no play adage over and over again. Now, a little over a decade in the new millennium we are seeing another tectonic shift. The DNA of organizations are getting flipped. Because the millennial workforce is vastly different than what you had 20 years ago. The codified working hours, defined office spaces, strict dress codes are alien in a world where the priorities around work and life have vastly changed. And so have the work-life paradigms.
The work-life boundary is actually a mythical line. I have always found the following statement slightly odd ‘Career should not come at the expense of life’ Signifying that a career is an alien thing that happens outside of our lives. Really? Something that is about 50% of every day. Is it possible to treat the job as an unnecessary evil that pays the bills and have a blissful life generally outside of it? Separate life and career goals? No. The personal-professional dichotomy is artificial. It is all you. Your life. You can’t really come home happy if you are spending 8 miserable hours in the cubicle. And this is where I find the basic flaw in the work-life balance concepts. Switching off the phone does not make the professional life disappear. You carry the energies out. This is why your work and life should match. You cannot play a Dr Jekylly, Mr Hyde game with your two lives.
The other thing that is making work-life boundaries more ambiguous is the nature of work itself. The days of the 9 am swipe in and the 5 pm swipe out are all by over. In a fluid, digital and global world people work across timezones. From coffee shops, homes and garages. Timings have become blurred. When working in an idea economy, the work happens when the idea happens. At 5 am. Not between 9 and 5. At 12 midnight.
What then about the separate time for the things you love? In the new world, people are insisting on more than a job; they are insisting on a career they love. So there is no hard transition between the job you hate and the other life you love. Sharp at 5 when the siren blows. Also in a fluid workplace, me time and work time are fuzzy; as it should be. You cannot schedule your daughter’s PTA at 8 pm when you get home from work. You cannot schedule to deliver your first baby after work hours. The new age work rules are being built around life. To integrate. Not segregate.
As people look for purpose beyond the paycheck in their careers; choose careers and workplaces that match you. Your life. Your passions. The work-life balance is an oxymoron. It is the match that you have to find. The cultural fits. The flexibility to be you. The acceptance for aberrations. The match of purpose. The acknowledgement of individual priorities. The new corporates are being built around these principles. Because work-life balance is an oxymoron. It is the synergy that is important.
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