Work-life balance is up to us

By Kim Lowe, Simple Intentions Managing Editor

Wow, what a week it’s been for the topic of work-life balance. For me, it started with a report in my inbox titled, “Why work-life balance is dead.” It’s not about balance, but rather integration, asserts the report, which was co-created by the corporate wellness company Limeaid and Dr. Tracy Brower.

Its key message: The effort to balance work and life can be an exercise in trade-offs, where either work or life gains the upper hand. Shift the mindset to integration and we see the potential to blend work with life. In other words, you can bring who you are and what you need in life to work.

I shared this report with my colleague and founder of Simple Intentions, Jae Ellard, who jumped at the opportunity to share her wisdom in a blog post, “Can we stop talking about what to call work-life balance?

Ellard’s message: There’s no such thing as work-life balance – because balance means something different to each one of us. What’s more important is waking up to our own definitions of balance and making choices that support it.

Three days later, the bomb to level any and all conversations of work-life balance fell. Of course I’m talking about the New York Times exposé of Amazon and its reportedly punishing workplace culture that “stoke[s] [employees’] willingness to erode work-life boundaries” and at times drove employees to tears and worse.

Coming out of this work-life whirlwind I’m reminded of the classic TedxSydney talk by Nigel Marsh, How to make work-life balance work. Considering Marsh delivered this talk five years ago, the effort remains an ongoing battle.

What’s ominous is that corporations are leading the charge while we – the employees and individuals – sit on the sidelines enduring the fall out. Marsh states quite clearly: “Never put the quality of your life in the hands of a commercial corporation.” For they are “inherently designed to get as much out of you as they can get away with.”

The message is clear, but let’s make it louder: Work-life balance is up to us. We need to make the choice, set the boundaries, take the accountability for what work-life balance means, looks and feels to us as individuals. We cannot argue that imbalance yields innovation or success. All of life thrives on balance, and it’s up to us to define and claim it, both in work and life.

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