Work Life Balance or Managed “Imbalance”?

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Attend any professional conference, business meeting or industry luncheon and one topic always comes up…..work life balance. Most often the discussion will focus on the lack of time available for family, friends, hobbies, etc due to the extreme demands of today’s workplace. Having been a corporate athlete for thirty years, I can testify that today’s Workplace is much more demanding than ever before. Not only are we being asked to work longer hours, technology has almost “handcuffed” us to the job 24/7! Think about it? Emails are non-stop, voicemails can arrive at any hour, Smart-phones function as “life support” devices that sit on our nightstands buzzing at all hours of the night! Recently, a colleague’s wife shared that she told her husband that their bedroom wasn’t big enough for her and his Blackberry….one of them had to go!

So what are we to do? In such a competitive workplace the difference between a promotion and a pink slip can be the perception of who is more “dedicated” to the company? Who is willing to work late? Who will spend their weekends in the office to finish the project? If you don’t do it, someone else will, and get the upper hand. Worse yet, your personal brand may take a hit?

The reality is, there really is no such thing as work life balance….especially, if you expect it to always be a 50/50 split. Rather, I believe that what is more manageable is what I call “managed imbalance”. Basically, managed imbalance is the acknowledgement that there are times that the demands of the job will take precedence, and other times the needs of your personal life will be the priority. Health reasons may dictate that you make time for fitness or eating a proper lunch (not a vending machine hot dog at your desk). Family demands will require you to spend time with an aging parent, a sick child, or attending an event important to your significant other.

Conversely, there will be times that the job will be the priority: the corporate project, the quarterly budget, or the big board presentation. By the way, the higher you are in an organization, the more demanding it will be as to your time. The skill comes in knowing when and how to manage the imbalance! When it needs to be 60/40 in favor of the job, or 70/30 in favor of your personal situation? While this answer will vary by person, I am convinced that all work and no play, is a recipe for unhappiness.