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Why this psychologist says finding work/life balance is BS

The line between our personal and work lives has never been blurrier—so it’s more realistic (and healthier) to find the right work/life ‘blend.’

Why this psychologist says finding work/life balance is BS
[Photo: Westend61/Getty Images]

Companies have been touting “work/life balance” for years. Sure, it’s a great idea in theory–we go to work and are able to turn off our mind about everything in our personal lives, and then we go home and are able to forget about work. But, in practice, it never really works out that way. 

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On average, we spend one-third of our lives working. It’s time we realize that our work life is our personal life, and vice versa, so we need to change our mindset and ditch the “work/life balance” for good. In its place, adopt a work/life blend mindset. It sounds similar, but in today’s world, blend beats balance every single time. Let me explain.

Define what a work/life blend is for you

It’s impossible to build your life around your work. People have tried (and failed) many times over, but to be truly productive and creative at work, team members need the freedom to work in the way that’s most effective for them, individually. This is where a blend comes in.

Instead of seeing work and life as two opposites on a scale that you’re constantly trying to get in balance, a blended mindset is understanding that work doesn’t exist in a silo and it never will. Your work and your life exist at the same time. Sometimes, that means you have to work outside of normal working hours, while other times it means you have to handle “life things” during your workday.

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Over the past few years, largely as a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen people start to shift toward accommodating life outside of work, and these changes need to continue.

I recently worked with monday.com to complete a survey of over 1,000 U.S. workers to determine what truly brings them happiness at work. The team at monday.com was curious about the resulting data, as their main focus is building a platform where organizations of any size can create the tools and processes they need to manage every aspect of their work. One of our biggest findings from the study was that people are prioritizing their mental health now more than ever before–and they appreciate employers who are doing the same. At the same time, 92% of workers are concerned that, as soon as the primary threat of the pandemic subsides, employers will no longer care about well-being and go back to their old ways of operating even if the way we live our lives has fundamentally shifted.

When the majority of workers think that employers don’t care about their well-being, something needs to change. Adapting to a strategy of blending your work life with your personal life is an ideal place to start.

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There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to this. It will look different for each company (and, to be completely honest, for each individual employee), but here are three key pieces that should be ingrained into every strategy.

Trust and transparency

To start, trust your employees and create a culture that values transparency. This is easier said than done, especially in the evolving hybrid world where employees aren’t all under your nose.

In a work/life blend culture, employees should be encouraged to find the rhythm that works for them. Sure, if they have to pick their kids up from school or go to a doctor’s office in the middle of traditional working hours, that’s great. You need to trust that they’ll still get their work done. And, take it one step further: If someone on your team wants to take a 30-minute bike ride or have an extended lunch catching up with a friend, that time needs to be just as respected. 

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When employees can be honest about how they’re spending their time, they’ll start feeling more empowered and supported in their role.

Open communication

The way we work has taken a toll on employees’ mental health, and a lot of people don’t feel comfortable relaying their challenges to their team members. Millennials experience the worst anxiety about it, with 84% of them hesitant to have a conversation with a supervisor at work.

With a blended work culture, team members need to feel comfortable enough to have difficult conversations about their needs with their managers. Open communication needs to be reflected from the top down, and then your full team will be better suited to speak up for their own needs. In turn, this will lead to more connected and energetic teams.

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Ownership

If team members aren’t empowered to take ownership of their responsibilities at work, a work/life blend approach will never work. Micromanagers are the antithesis of work/life blend, because their employees constantly need to confirm details and wait for approvals. Instead, work more asynchronously and give team members ownership from the beginning. This will help them build their own schedules and, at the same time, bring their own creativity into each task.

Finding a blend will pay off in the long run

Employees are becoming more vocal about their requirements for a flexible work culture focused on well-being, and if their current role can’t provide that, they’re willing to look elsewhere. In fact, 41% of office professionals are considering health and well-being programs as more of a priority in their job search now than they did pre-pandemic. People need the opportunity to live their lives outside of work, and they need employers who trust that the work will get done, even if the way it gets done is more innovative and flexible than traditional approaches from another era.

The future of work is here and we need to adapt. By bringing a work/life blend into your workplace, teams will be more creative, energized, and prepared for their work, and the results will speak for themselves.

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Dr. Melba Nicholson Sullivan is a community psychologist and CEO/Founder of Freedom Flow Solutions, a consultancy that partners with companies to reduce stress and promote thriving.


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