Has work-life balance got a bad rep?

by - July 02, 2017

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The term work-life balance has been around the block since the 1970s. However, it wasn't until the past decade when it was really added to the Human Resources sector's vocabulary of buzz words. You read about it on news websites, in columns and opinion pieces - you know, the ones that aren't 'serious enough' to make the print edition. You hear it mentioned on the TV during some day-time talk show. But that's where the coverage ends. Unless you pop up at some HR or Psychology lecture as an undergrad, nowhere else would it be taken 'seriously enough'. And this, my friends, frustrates me.

According to data from 2015, provided by CERP (Center for Economic and Policy Research), 70% of employees in the United States have work for 40+ hours per week, followed by New Zealand and Spain with 65% working as long, Germany and Canada -  51-52%, United Kingdom - 48% while on the bottom are Norway of 15% and Denmark of 14%.

The issue of work-life balance affects a significantly large percentage of the global population. I probably can't find you figures for every country out there, but I think we can all see it's highly believable. What balance is there in the first place when people usually work five to six days a week, and often seven (I feel sorry for you, dad), and we get a maximum of two rest days? We need to balance our lives and ourselves. The jobs should not be what stops us from achieving this, because let's face it - today's generation will probably have to spend fifty years in the workforce. If we feel out of balance now and ignore the warning signs, how are we going to sustain our health to keep going later?

After month of deliberate contemplation and delay, I finally got the little dose of courage to talk with my boss and ask for negotiating a slight change in my working hours. It was a last attempt to feel like my old self again without making a drastic move. Needless to say, I was optimistic about the outcome. The world has been changing, management has been evolving. HR was reinforcing work-life balance practices. I had laid out a plan of implementation, carefully outlined how this change won't have a negative impact on my work tasks, and was prepared to take a pay cut. Well, my suggestion wasn't taken as smoothly as I had hoped. It was directly implied that my request was due to de-motivation. Feeling the need to feel better was interpreted as an unwillingness to take responsibilities. When I heard this, I felt like I had slipped into a surreal world - were we speaking the same languages? I was amazed how wrongly I had been interpreted. Apparently I did not feel the drive ''to make a name for myself'', whatever that means. I could tell that this did not fit with his grand plans to expand the business and that he was probably thinking 'how are we going to get everything done from now on?' After an hour long debate, my boss reluctantly agreed. And eventually as it turned out, this change has actually improved my performance and well-being in the long run.

If, unfortunately, work-life balance continues to be frowned upon at your job and you're not able to reduce your commitments or work remotely, here are a few alternative ways. They may not have the same effect as flexible working, but I hope they still might offer you some sort of support.

At the end of the day only you know how you are truly feeling and how much you are struggling with. Jobs are different, some roles are absolutely draining and you think there's nothing else you can do in order to pay the rent and bills. What I'd encourage you to do, however, is to slow down for a moment and reflect. If you feel you can't cope any longer and your situation may not change until you get a new job or fulfil some other goal, you need to assess whether your work is affecting your physical or mental health. You can't put a price on health, the working world out there maybe hasn't fully gotten the memo yet, but the long hours and always-switched-on culture need to stop for the sake of all of us.


Reinforce clear boundaries between your job and the rest of your life (e.g., turn on the Out of Office auto reply every day at the end of your working hours - not just when you go on a holiday) and mentally switch off. It might be not so easy for some of you as it requires a persistent effort until you get used to this new state of mind. Yes, you might think that your superiors will immediately notice and tell you off or perhaps you believe you'll have to say goodbye to that promotion, but start thinking of yourself as a human being and not a machine. We are not perfect, error-free, always productive with great performance. Some days we're working in our best version of ourselves and some days we can only try to, because we can't control every day or week. Responding to emails, texts or phonecalls on the train or while gulping down your cold take-away dinner won't make you a better employee or a better person and ultimately, I can guarantee you, it won't make you any healthier or happier several years down the road.


We don't really have a choice when our bosses assign us more and more work to do, but we can exercise control over the tasks we create for ourselves. If you want to excel and be noticed, you're more likely to make yourself in charge of new projects until you're gasping for air. Working beyond your limits will ultimately make you noticeable, but you'll also become the go-to person for urgent tasks and things no one else wants to do, because you will be the most reliable one there. Know your limits and be perceptive of the environment. Does management value your qualities and potential or do they only want the work done, because others would be 'too busy' to do it?


Matching paid work with passion is a dream, but not always a reality. However, it shouldn't stop you from enjoying your life, including the working week as well! If you live only for a weekend, it may disturb your well-being. Work shouldn't capsulate your entire day. I often feel way too tired to do anything after work, but if I don't at least try, then I'll just be in a hurry to pack everything I wanted to do in one weekend and it'll leave me exhausted before the start of the new week.


Like literally, slow down your pace. Deadlines, new projects and implementing ideas - we know they are there and the thought of them is a mood-killer, so we want to get rid of them as soon as possible. However, why don't you start a little experiment? Try to monitor the tempo with which you're doing everything around your job and your daily life outside the workplace. Notice if you are always running to start and finish things. Always jumping from one task to another will make your to-do-list go down, but your stress levels will be more likely go up, because your body gets used to being under pressure all the time. This results in having difficulty to really relax outside of work as your body won't register the difference. If this is the case with you, whenever you become conscious of the rush you feel during the day, take a breath, release the tension in your shoulders and slow down your pace.

Also ideas flow better with a clear mind. The more pre-occupied you are with the thousand things you have to do, the less room there will be for something fresh and new.


Cliché or not, you should take a good care of your body and mind. Eat well, drink liquids (not that much coffee...), soak in some sun (if it's there), take regular walks. Go for a run or try the latest fitness trend, why not just dance? For those who don't mind exercising among the presence of other twenty sweaty muscly people - hit the gym.

Inner Quiet is all about you. We will tackle the thoughts and fears of living in a world that keeps going even when you feel that you need a break. When a stressful life wraps you in its claws with no-way-out, we will try to show you another possibility, another solution, another way. No matter what you do or what you want to see yourself doing, we want to help you to shine through you. To be a human is hard enough without the constant pressure of being perfect and in this day and age we might feel it's impossible to live free of self-imposed constraints and others' expectations. Let's prove it wrong.

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