Why the term 'work-life balance' could be causing us more harm than good

Why the term 'work-life balance' could be causing us more harm than good

It’s safe to say that ‘work-life balance’ has become a buzz-phrase in our daily lives – particularly amid the fallout from the pandemic and more people reassessing their work priorities.

No matter where we are with our careers and our lives, it’s a phrase we always find ourselves referring back to – a positive goal that we’re trying to achieve.

We’re constantly striving to be on top of both our professional and personal lives – to strike the perfect balance between work and play. 

However, personal development coach Tammy Whalen Blake believes that the term ‘work-life balance’ is actually incredibly problematic – and it might be doing us more harm than good.

Tammy says the problem stems from the fact that we, as a society, tend to view success only in terms of what we have achieved in the world of work. 

She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘When we think of success, a lot of it has been pinned on our work – which is why we say “what do you do?” as a small talk question.

‘It’s like we are saying “where are you in society so I can compare myself to you” – a status thing. We say this as opposed to something like, “what’s your purpose?”

‘When we think about it that way, we put so much into our work – we go too far with it. Success means work.’

What’s more, the problem with the term ‘work life balance’ is that it also implies that work is somehow separate to life – but is equally as important. 

However, in reality we have a number of different things that contribute to a happy and fulfilling life. 

‘We are still focusing on work as pivotal and life as being equally as important to work,’ Tammy adds.

‘So, if you think about putting the same amount of time, energy and attention into each of those categories, that’s really not balanced. Because life is your health, spirituality, fun, family, personal growth, wealth and more – there’s a lot within that. So really the scales are out-balanced.’

In addition to this, Tammy adds that the phrase isn’t very inclusive for those who don’t work.

‘Some people are not driven by work – they might just want to be a wonderful parent,’ she continues.

‘So the term translates as, “oh you’re not valued in society, because you’re not working.” That’s not fair on them either, so they feel rubbish about themselves, you also feel terrible when you ask the question “what do you do?” and someone replies “I’m a stay-at-home parent.”’’

Instead Tammy proposes that ‘life balance’ is actually a far better model – as it’s more representative of our all-encompassing lives.

With ‘life balance’ we have our work, our social lives, our health, our family, our hobbies and more.

‘This way you get to choose what you want and what’s most significant,’ she adds.

‘But also at different stages of life, you give more importance to different things. So for me right now, my work is most important, but in five years time I want to reduce my work down so that I can be present with my children.

‘Then once my children are 18, I’m going to put more effort into my work again.

‘So it means I can change the model depending on my priorities. I’m not then chasing someone else’s standard for success. It’s my standard.’

Tammy says this model is a good thing to try as we approach the new year, as it helps us identify what we want to improve so we can get the balance right for us, before focusing on another area.

‘If work is really important to you, that’s absolutely fine. Focus in on work and set your goals and priorities in work,’ she adds.

‘But if it’s not in work, that’s also fine – maybe you just want to maintain your role and you don’t want to upskill, because you’re going to put more energy into your health.

‘If you try and do everything, you just get overwhelmed and you get disconnected from yourself.’

If we change our mindsets to this ‘life balance’ mentality, Tammy says it’ll actually benefit us a lot more overall – mainly because we’ll properly get to grips with what we want out of life, rather than what society expects from us.

She adds: ‘By adopting this mindset, we are going to go inwards, as opposed to outwards. We are going to evaluate what we actually want – which most people don’t actually do. 

‘When I’m coaching my clients, I ask a lot of questions about themselves and they find it really difficult. I have to go over the questions several times at different points because it’s really challenging to notice what actually lights us up – because we’ve become so used to lighting other people up through our behaviour.’

Not only will this make us happier, but it will also make us more productive. 

‘Knowing your “life balance” will allow you to be more productive, as you’re prioritising what’s most important right now,’ she adds.

‘We all want to do everything, and that’s great – but not all of it right now.

‘Just be very specific. So when it comes to things like new year, as opposed to setting goals, maybe you could set a theme. For example, 2022 could be all about mental health – really focus in on that as a category.

‘This is so you get to recognise what are you doing with your time and see that it’s working towards what you really want to achieve from life.’

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