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The Fallacy of Work-Life Balance
May 17, 2011

Do you find yourself being challenged to find a healthy balance between your career and life outside of work?  The term work-life balance first appeared in 1986 in the US in response to the increasing demands of work and career and their effects on ones’ lifestyle outside of work.  Many companies, as well as employees, have struggled with this concept since that point.  There have been endless corporate programs, training sessions, and efforts to try and obtain an effective balance between work and life outside of work.  Is the term work-life balance something that you should really be striving for, or is it a complete fallacy?

The term work-life balance is really misleading at best.  Balance is defined as “a state of bodily equilibrium”.  So, the term itself assumes that your work and life outside of work should be in complete equilibrium.  While this seems like something to strive for, do you really want to have complete balance between your work and your life outside of work?  What does that even mean?  By defining this as your goal, are you setting yourself up to chase after something that is not only impossible, but perhaps not even desirable?

Perhaps a better way to define work-life balance would be to slightly shift your goal to one of work-life integration.  Integration is defined as “behavior, as of an individual, that is in harmony with the environment”.  By shifting your focus to integration instead of balance, it sets you free from chasing after the impossible equilibrium of your work and life, and allows you to determine how to create an environment that is in harmony with your overall life goals.  Which one sounds more empowering to you?

Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Career Coaching

  1. I love the integration word…It is so much more useful than “balance”, and also affirms the idea that our work and our lives don’t need to be two totally disparate things!

  2. Hi Tom,
    I have mixed feelings regarding your blog on Fallacy of Work-Life Balance. Having been a consultant on the issue for 25 years I think the word balance still works. Most people need balance and not integration. We don’t need to be too literal with the word. Also I think integrating work and personal life doesn’t work. There needs to be some separation and that is the problem with all the technology. Individuals don’t know how to separate work from personal life.
    I appreciate your comments and I know balance is not a perfect word. However we can try to find more equilibruim in our work-lives.

  3. Tom is right, work-life balance is a fallacy. Balance feels like there is some perfection involved. This leaves us feeling like we haven’t done enough in one area or another.

    I like Tom’s use of harmony as a replacement word for balance. Harmony definitions include : 1. Agreement in feeling or opinion, 2. a pleasing combination of elements in a whole.

    Harmony involves an acceptance of imbalance!

  4. Thanks for the comments ladies!

  5. More and more people seem to be moving towards “jobs” that are not separate from real life, they are a core component of their successful, fulfilling life. It’s fun, as a Coach, helping people make that real!

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