The term emerged in the 1990s, coined by corporations responding to the challenge of increasing workplace stress on the one hand, and greater social need on the other. “Talent”, as they label the smart folks whose skills keep the company productive, were looking not just to have careers, but to be able to be parents and carers too. Heck, some of that “talent” even wanted to spend some of their lives completely away from work.
And so benefits like flexible working arrangements, childcare, and sabbaticals became more prevalent, alongside in-house initiatives like gyms and stress management training.
These undoubtedly help make a lot of people’s lives better. But it’s important as an individual to know that whether they help you or not, their primary motive is not your welfare, but the protection of the bottom line.
Work vs Life
Implicit in the corporate concept is that work and life are different and separate. Worse, they stand against one another as two values – the only two values – competing for your time and energy.
If you find yourself going a little crazy juggling your workload with all you have to do outside, there’s no concept that the picture could be wrong. Or that things within it could need a fundamental rethink. Including how liveable your job actually is.
It all boils down to these two simple, logical and therefore hypothetically manageable parts: work and life.
Your Whole Life
Coaching and writing for people around work life balance, I have a different picture. Because my interest is in you, I want to work with and talk to all of who you are.
Of course work is a key part of your life and of helping give a sense of identity. But it needs to be seen as an integral part of you. Just as your family, friends, special relationship, sports and hobbies, and spirituality are not things you should leave at the office reception desk.
What Do You Need?
My intention in writing this is not to make you more cynical of corporations. They are important in the whole, bigger work life picture.
What I am suggesting is that you don’t get sucked into framing something in a way that doesn’t jive with your nature.
Take your power back. Ask yourself what’s important from the perspective of your whole life. Can your company’s work life balance ethos and programs support you? If they can, brilliant. Either way, simply avoid being cast in a mould that is not of your making.