Yes, you have lost your work/life balance. You lost it, because you never really found it in the first place. There is no work/life balance. Stop looking.
This may not make you happy, and this may not be news that you will embrace, but it’s true.
Achieving a work/life balance suggests that we allot time for work, and we allot time for family, friends and recreation. Our work worries, ideas and creativity stay firmly rooted at the office where they belong, and when we get home we are able to fully enjoy family, hobbies and home related responsibilities. We are able to balance work and life, and we are able to keep them safely separated. We are able to achieve and sustain success at home and at work, and our life goes on. Happy. Content. Balanced.
In reality though, if you are fortunate to have a job that you love, if you are fortunate to have a career that you consider to more than only a job, a true work/life balance is difficult if not impossible to attain. I’m not even sure that a balance between work and home is something that should still be a goal.
I was at a professional conference a number of years ago where the keynote speaker suggested rather than trying to achieve a balance, we recognize that success comes with achieving a work/life blend. Some of our life gets into our work, some of our work gets into our life, and that’s just the way it is. But I think we need to go a step further, and I think we need to recognize that when we love our life at work, and when we love our life at home, our satisfaction and happiness comes with less separation between the two, not more.
After all, you probably never had much of a work/life balance in the first place. After all, you probably don’t have much to lose.
- If you have friends you made at work, you have lost your work/life balance. When you get together with friends you made at work after work, or on the weekends, you are carrying over a positive aspect of your workplace into your personal life. This is a good thing, and though you will not be talking about work the entire time you are together, work will always be that connective tissue that informs and sustains your friendship.
- If you check personal email, make personal calls or visit your social network feeds during work, you have lost your work/life balance. This is not to suggest it is improper or unethical to take care of personal tasks while in the office, often it is necessary and it is the only time we can get that important personal work done. However, this is to suggest that bringing your personal life into the office breaks the work/life barrier just as much as bringing work into your home. The barrier becomes more porous. The more it feels acceptable to you to get personal work done at work, the more it will feel acceptable to get your professional work done at home.
- If you receive work email on your personal cell phone, you may have lost your work/life balance. Some of us use two devices so we can maintain that separation between work and home. Often, different devices are mandated by legal or regulatory requirements, but I think that is the exception rather than the rule. You get a call from your spouse or partner, and then you respond to a client request. You check your Twitter feed, and then respond to an email from your boss. It’s all on the same device, and that device is always with you at home and at work.
- If you read business books or articles when away from work, you may have lost your work/life balance. I hope you love your job. I hope your work interests you, excites you, and that you always want to do better and you always want to grow in your work. So you may read a book that relates to your work on your commute home, or while you sit in the hammock in the backyard on a Sunday afternoon. When you get back into work, you have newfound inspiration and ideas for your work, because of the time you were able to think about work while you were at home.
- If you talk about your work with family, you may have lost your work/life balance. You can’t just put work away. You can’t always leave it at the office. Talking about work with your family helps to unpack the day. Your family can help you work through issues because they know you, and yet they are removed enough to provide valuable perspective and insight. Even the kids can find ways to make complicated situations seem simple and straightforward.
- If you talk about your family at work, you may have lost your work/life balance. It goes the other way, too. Talking about our families at work can be cathartic and rewarding. We can find colleagues who have also dealt with sick parents, and we can brag about our kids. We can share experiences, we can provide support and we can learn through our community of colleagues. Work is where we spend our days, and we cannot expect to leave all of our home based concerns and excitement aside when we sit down at our desk at the beginning of the day.
There are no hard and fast rules here, and you need to live your life in a way that is rewarding for you, and makes you happy. But for all the work we do to keep our work and home life separated, I suggest to instead find ways to acknowledge that both are a reflection of you, that you are deeply invested in both. Trying to keep them completely separated will not serve you well, and as a result will not be good for work, it will not be good for your family.
Enjoy your time at work. Enjoy your time at home. This is you.