Meaningful Life Balance over Work Life Balance

When I started my consulting business 18 years ago, one of the hot topics that I was asked to speak about was on how employees can have work life balance. I polled my participants on what they thought they needed to have more work life balance and what do you think was top on the wish list? Consistently, my participants would say WORK FROM HOME, now with its own hashtag #wfh! For a variety of reasons and life circumstances, employees wanted to be able to work from home one to two days a week.

Fast forward 2020, and world circumstances has granted the wish for many employees to work from home.

Do you remember the early days of March, April and May where you and your friends shared on your IG stories the joy of working from home? #Dalgona coffee was a craze (first time I ever heard of it) and boy did some of my friends whip it up beautifully. Remember how we boasted about #foodprep or cooking lunch and dinner in-between meetings. And best of all – not having to be in full corporate attire – we all had a spare jacket we threw over our pyjamas!

Fast forward and the novelty has worn off. Working from home no longer has that same romantic lure that it had earlier this year. Suddenly we are feeling resentful of that blurred boundaries of work and home. Many of us wake up and plunge straight to work. We are surrounded by the same people and environment for 24 hours. Multiple meetings, lessons and conversations are going on at the same time affecting our ability to focus. Now we a re desperate to get out of the house and I have friends and family confessing to me that they cannot wait to get back to the physical workplace. And I hear them because even I am starting to feel resentful that I’m working longer hours now that I work primarily form home. And the go to lament is again, I don’t have work life balance”.

The problem with the phrase “work life balance” is it pits one against the other, with many visuals (and I’ve been a culprit to perpetuate this) showing people desiring less time at work and more time in life. But can we truly escape work and is work really all that bad?

Perhaps we need to reword the desire because if we were to dig deeper to why we feel we don't have the balance what we’re actually experiencing is a LACK of a meaningful life. Ask Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group that controls over 400 companies, whether he has has work life balance and I’m sure he’d look at you quizzically as he’s driven by a higher purpose, something meaningful. And while you may argue he employs many employees to run his business, the owner of such an empire is not sitting down twiddling his toes and giving complete control to others. And let’s not forget the early years he spent building his empire, where he probably worked 10 to 14 hours a day and perhaps even seven days a week.

Instead of focusing on getting work life balance, work towards getting a meaningful life balance and to get you started, I’ve some questions that you may want to consider:

  • What does TIME mean for you? Is time assigned a monetary value – “how much are you worth an hour?” or “If you’re worth $XX an hour, how would you be spending your time?”

  • Are you Guilt-tripping or being Guilt-tripped for not doing enough with your time? Have you packed your day with so many activities to justify how you utilise every single minute? But how much of that time is actual meaningful work and contributing to your higher purpose?

  • What is your higher purpose? Your work today is a means to reach that purpose – it could be a plan for financial freedom by a certain age, to embark on a project or business or perhaps to give back to society.

  • How much time can you put aside every day for meaningful activities? This could be going for a walk, cycling, engaging in a hobby, reading a book or doing some kind of research.

  • Finally, what is your commitment to yourself to disengage from unmeaningful work every day?