Do you have the work-life balance you want? Read on to find out which balance suits you and how to achieve it.
What does it mean to have work-life balance? Does it mean that you spend the same amount of time at work and at home? Does having a good balance require a clear separation between work and personal life? Do you have a poor work-life balance if you spend more hours at work than at home, or vice versa?
No, you don't.
In my opinion, the premise of the term "work-life balance" is wrong. There are two reasons for this:
First, the term sets up an opposition between work and personal life, a tug of war where the two sides are always competing against each other.
Second, "work-life balance" gives the impression that you need clear boundaries between work and personal life. That work cannot be part of your life, and that life cannot be part of your work. That you need to separate the two from each other in order to thrive.
<hl>The problem with this very clear separation between work life and personal life is that it doesn't work for everyone<hl>. For some people, a clear separation will certainly be a good thing, because they enjoy being able to distinguish clearly between their work role and their personal life role. To work when they work, and to be completely free when they are off.
But for many others – and perhaps even more after the Covid-19 pandemic – the boundary is not so sharply drawn. For many, it doesn't make sense to cut off their work identity from who they are when they are not at work. They personally and identity-wise invest in their work. For them, a clear separation, therefore, becomes a limitation rather than a help.
Should we abandon the idea of work-life balance? No, there's no need to. Despite its imperfections, it remains a relevant concept, as studies show that a lack of balance between work and life is a significant source of stress. However, in a world where many people have overlapping boundaries between work and private life, we need to re-evaluate our understanding of the concept.
Instead of viewing work and personal life as opposing forces, I propose that we <hl>reframe work-life balance as the level of satisfaction with the balance between work and personal life<hl>. This perspective emphasizes finding a balance that works for you, rather than dividing time equally between work and personal life or separating them completely.
To find the right balance, it's important to understand your personal preferences. In this context, people tend to fall into two categories: "separators" and "integrators."
If you're a separator, you're better off with a clear boundary between your work and your private life. You typically do best working at your workplace and roughly within the same time frame, because it creates a physical boundary between work and home. You may also thrive in working from home, but then you will often have a specific place in the home dedicated as your "work-space".
If you're a separator, <hl>you can become stressed when the boundaries between work and private life merge<hl>. This could be if you feel that you are expected to be available outside normal working hours and, for example, have to answer emails in the evening.
If you are an integrator, you thrive best with fluid boundaries between work and private life. You are happy to work outside normal working hours and change location depending on the work task - or mood. For example, you don't mind meeting a friend for coffee in the middle of the day or working a few hours after dinner. You enjoy being able to manage your own time to fit in with a flexible working day
If you're an integrator, <hl>not having enough autonomy and flexibility at work can stress you out<hl>. For example, you may be stressed if it's not possible to work remotely because your child is sick or if the working day starts at 8 am and finishes at 4 pm every day.
When talking about separators and integrators, it is important to mention that the two types represent different ends of a spectrum. Most of us will lie somewhere between the two types, but typically lean more or less to one of the ends.
It's important to note that these types should be seen as different ends of a spectrum, and most of us will fall somewhere in between. However, typically, we tend to lean towards one end or the other. Additionally, it's not necessarily the type that determines whether you have a good or bad work-life balance, but rather how well you are able to organize your working life around your preferred type.
Begin by having a conversation with the relevant individuals in your workplace, such as your manager and coworkers. If you identify as an "integrator," consider discussing with your manager about the possibility of adding an extra day of remote work per week, or inquiring about flexible schedules that allow for early departures and evening work hours if it aligns better with your personal life.
It's important to also communicate your work-life balance needs with your close coworkers. This opens up the opportunity to understand each other's preferences and will strengthen collaboration within the team while avoiding potential conflicts.
Just as it's important to communicate your preferences to your leader and colleagues, it's also important to talk to your family about your desired work-life balance.
For example, if you have small children who sometimes need to be picked up from nursery early, but you feel you work best when you stay at work in the afternoon, it might be a good idea to have a chat with your partner about this. This doesn't mean that the right solution is to never pick up children early. It may not be an option in relation to your partner's work. But by talking about it, together you can try to find a solution that meets both your needs and is practical. By having a conversation about what you both want, you can avoid misunderstandings turning into conflict.
To achieve the work-life balance that suits you best, it is therefore important to communicate your preferences to relevant people at work and at home.
Work-life balance is not about having an equal division between work and private life. Work-life balance is about <hl>finding the balance that suits you best within the practical framework of your life<hl>. And you achieve that balance by knowing your own preferences and communicating them to the people who matter.
Akademikerne.(2018). Psykisk arbejdsmiljø og stress – hvilke faktorer har indflydelse på detpsykiske arbejdsmiljø og medarbejdernes stress.
Gratton, L.(2022). Den hybride arbejdsplads. Djøf Forlag.
Kossek, E. E.,Ruderman, M. N., Braddy, P. W. & Hannum, K. M. (2012). Work-nonwork boundarymanagement profiles: A person-centered approach.Journal of Vocational Behavior.
Mellner, C., Arronson, G. & Kecklund, G.(2014). Boundary Management Preferences,Boundary Control, and Work-Life Balance among Full-Time Employed Professionalsin Knowledge-Intensive, Flexible Work. Nordic journal of working lifestudies.
Motlke, H. V., Lykke, T. F. & Nielsen,I. G. (2022). Hybrid ledelse.Dansk Psykologisk Forlag.
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