Millennials flooding the workforce has forced the redefinition of the much-loved buzzwords “work/life balance”. Instead, how about we cut the cr*p and do away with it altogether?
Perhaps this is a sign of resignation. Possibly calling for the term’s shelving altogether is the culmination of frustrations following years of trying to understand and articulate its current standing in the workplace fully. Perhaps it’s a touch of pedanticism.
Balance, fine, it’s the two words before it and dash or slash that irk me. We have a myriad of obligations and responsibilities to others and ourselves that we must prioritise and balance, not just two. Why are we making a distinction between ‘living’ and, ironically, ’making a living?’.
The assumption is that we tread a delicate (and often seemingly impossible) tightrope between two polarising worlds: what we “must do” and what we “want to do”. Work is bad; private life is good. The work/life paradigm implies we have two lives. We don’t, we have one, and if we aren’t in charge of it, then somebody else is.
I was once told, “life is our priority, but work is somebody else’s”.
Many adopt a somewhat dangerous position of defining our self-worth via our career, and I think that boils down to a particular view of “success” that we are taught. A “good job”, long hours, big money, promotions… And there’s nothing wrong if you are fulfilled, but the constant discussion over work/life balance would suggest not everybody is.
The traditional days of career trajectory are largely behind us. Long gone are the expectations of a single career – towing the line along a linear trajectory from bottom to the… well, somewhere that isn’t the bottom in return for a gold watch upon retirement. It’s a truly symbolic trading of time because let’s be clear, our finite amount of time is what we are trading.
We now live in a connected world of opportunity where people are having ten different careers (and less are treading the first rung on the corporate ladder). As people are becoming more conscious and aware of themselves, we’re beginning to question our relationship with work and how we spend our valuable time.
Well, perhaps. For some necessity and obligation to others will, of course, take priority because unfortunately, we need money to survive (I’m sure I’ll write in further detail about the utopian bartering system I’m devising at a later date). The point I’m trying to make is that there has never been a more significant window of opportunity to find meaningful work that integrates with our chosen lifestyle.
We’re seeing more freelancers, gig workers, people continuously chopping and changing to find integration rather than separation of “work” and “life”. A healthy work-life balance requires reflection on what we truly value and prioritising your whole self instead of just the needs of your work.
Loosely translating to ‘reason for being’, Ikigai is a Japanese concept representing a cross-section of our work, responsibilities and interests. It incorporates what you love, what the world needs, what you’re good at and what you can get paid for. To have Ikigai, and a healthy life because of it, means not being burdened by any one part of living. (and there are more than two parts to choose from).
It’s time to publicly ostracise or ‘cancel’ (a word I despise so much I now instead ‘annihilate’ my Amazon Prime membership) “work-life balance”. Banish it to the graveyard of annoying and useless business vernacular and make meaningful changes that allow us to integrate and prioritise our one life as we best choose.
Rant over… for now.