Sunday, 11 November 2012

Work-Life Balance is Bullshit

I agree with Alain.

The concept of work-life balance is a false dichotomy.

First, it presumes that work is in opposition to life.  It is assumes that the problem is binary - it's not.  The fact is that work is a fundamental part of life; who we are and what we do both define us, sometimes with good and bad results.  Work-life balance is not a state.  It is a fluid goal and while the pursuit of it is great, it doesn't really exist. Strive to add other parts to your life to "balance" the work part but don't kill yourself when you don't get this ephemeral balance. I worry that people berate themselves for never having balance, which is another kind of stress, guilt, equally bad as high work stress. so my view: pursue it, but don't fixate on the state.

Second, long hours are not necessarily a problem.  Some people get enjoyment working long hours: "work is more fun, than fun", said Noel Coward. It all depends on the person's frame of reference too. do you have kids? 50+ hours is likely dumb. but I for one (with no kids - yet) love working long hours in my current job. it is where I get most of my "Flow" (Csikszentmihalyi). and this makes sense, because achievement is high on the list of what makes most people happy. I find mine in the job that I do. so we need to be careful: long hours are not *necessarily* bad.

And Orson sums it up beautifully here: 
"The two things arent separated in my mind...  Work is an expression of life"

"The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night."

- Longfellow

“If you find a job you really love, you’ll never work again"

"It's about work- life harmony"
- Bezos


Ivan Ayliffe said...


Rich Mulholland said...

Nicely put, although I guess the pursuit of balance is still worthwhile. My life is far better now that I have some. That said, here's my fav quote on the topic, a philosophy I've always tried to live by:

"The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and play, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both."

James Michener

Steve Song said...

I fully agree with the above. Do something you love and what is the difference between work and pleasure?

Children change this equation however. Then you have to choose between things you love. More time for your children, less time for your career and vice versa.

A friend of mine who had moved countries to start working for a very ambitious startup and who had also just had his first child, confided in me over a beer. Speaking of his work time and time with his wife and child, he said "I think I've got the work/life balance exactly right when everyone hates me."

Kojo Baffoe said...

Work-Family-Self is my standard measure. I look at each week and try to make sure that I am devoting necessary time to each. Where there is imbalance, I work to make-up for it at other times. For example, if I know that I will be out evenings for most of next week, I'll try ensure I spend more time with my kids this weekend. It is an ongoing process.

Jerry Colonna said...
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