When it comes to "work," there is an unwritten code that we have jobs during the day and a life to live at night. Good work, at least by one of our definitions, is something that keeps us happy when we are in the office and when we are away from it--the so-called Work-Life Balance starting and ending with the thought that work and life are still separate things. I don't buy it.
I don't believe that the only dimension in which work and life can exist is on either side of a balance beam. Once you've found a job that you love, it becomes a part of you in such a way that you can't separate work from the people and passions that make up your life. In work that you truly love, the engagement is so strong that separating work and life becomes almost impossible--and that's a good thing.
Follow me on this one. If you've ever spent time with your friends, and they just want you to once, just once, stop talking about something awesome that happened with your team or product or app, then you may understand my point already.
We spend a lot of time talking about loving our jobs over at Startup Institute. To us, love and career go hand-in-hand. Worldwide, only 13 percent of people feel engaged in their work--that means a lot of people who spend their days feeling unengaged, uninspired, and like work is a chore that keeps them from their real lives. When you take into account the things that motivate us, we know that engagement with good work comes from finding jobs that allow us to make money, feel comfortable, and succeed.
When you have that level of engagement--when you find something you love and get to do every day--it becomes such a part of you that you talk about apps over appetizers with friends. Perhaps when hiring companies are advertising work-life balance, they may be selling what they do short, and it could even come off negatively: "Come work for us and you'll want to make sure you still have a life to get away from here."
Instead of promising things like flexible time or company parties as benefits that show a commitment to work-life balance, what if companies spent more time promising work that would engage and stimulate us in such a way that it didn't feel like work had to be separate? Maybe we need to stop trying to find a balance between just work and life. We should come together to build work that fulfills our lives and that allows us to love both the work we do and the lives we have, integrated and entwined as they may be.
The truth is that the startup world often aligns itself with this "love" part of a triangle between work and life. Many times, people come to startups because they find a company that meets their specific interests. Other times, it is because startups are so nimble and small that in most cases, we have to love our jobs in order to have the level of hustle necessary to drive growth--there's no time to imagine otherwise.
What do you think about this new formula between love, work, and life? Are we in a post-balance phase? Let us know in the comments.