Work-life balance is an elusive dream that lots of companies and people ask for. Companies declare that they offer a great work-life balance and people aim for short commutes and telecommuting to have a great work-life balance.
There's a problem, though. Balance is not what we are looking for. Think of a seesaw (or teeter-totter, depending on where you grew up). To be balanced everything needs to be the same and nothing can move. Think of the playgrounds where you'd put two little kids on one side to balance out a bigger kid on the other.
And what happens when the balance is uneven? One side is stuck in the air, unable to play and have fun. And what if the bigger kid decides he's done and gets off without warning--wham! The little kids smack the ground.
It's not a pretty picture. And it's the wrong picture, according to Carrie Bucci, Founder, People Operations Consultant & Coach at Mixtape Talent. She gave a Disrupt HR talk that started me thinking a bit more about the language we use when we describe the mix of our work and our life outside of work. Balance is the wrong word, and language matters.
Bucci says that work-life balance is a fairy tale--"it implies that our work and our lives are two totally separate things." Which, obviously, they are not. We're not balancing one against the other, we need to have all of these things working together. She suggests we talk about work-life Harmony.
It's a small change, but it's meaningful. Instead of focusing on trying to keep everything easy and happy and devoting just the right amount of effort to both so that our work doesn't go off the rails and slam our life into the ground (or vice versa).
Bucci says we should think about Harmony. Making things work together so that we can be happy in both realms. Understanding that sometimes home takes priority over work and sometimes work takes priority over home. And that's okay. That's dealing with harmony.
There's no need to force ourselves to have it all all the time. We can't be frantically running around trying to balance everything. Instead, let things work in harmony. It will help avoid burnout, which is something many of us could use.