Is There Really Such A Thing As “Work-life Balance”?

Imagine you’re out riding your bike with some friends. Covered in dirt and sweat, and grinning from ear to ear, you finally get back to the parking lot and begin to hitch up the bike to the rack. One of your friends turns to you and says, “You really have a good recreation-life balance.”

It sounds odd, doesn’t it? After all, recreation is just part of your life. And yet how often do we use the misleading phrase “work-life balance”? Does that really make more sense? Here’s an even more important question: Is there really such a thing as work-life balance?

After all, life isn’t some app you can turn on and off again depending on the activity or your mood. Life is life, and even if you could turn it off to go to work, then you wouldn’t do your best work. With this in mind, here are three areas of your work you and your people will benefit in by recognizing that work is part of life, and not in opposition to it:

Culture. Quit trying to make workplace feel exactly like home. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your people are comfortable and feel at home while at work. But your focus should be to make sure that your people can get their very best work done, and find fulfillment in their work.

If you create a culture of efficiency and hard work, your people will get the job done in good time (on time), and simply go home when it’s time for relaxation, recreation, and relationships. That’s not work-life balance; that’s life balance.

Recruiting. Rather than trying to convince recruits that working at your company won’t feel like work, look for people who find fulfillment in doing the work. You can find the most talented people in the world, but if they don’t have a passion for their job, it won’t matter.

When people come in for interviews, don’t focus your office tour on all the perks of working there. You don’t have to shy away from the stylish lounge and stocked fridges if you have them, but don’t expect them to be the difference. Focus on your company culture and the work you are doing. If that appeals to a candidate (or doesn’t), then you’ll be closer to finding “the one.”

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And don’t forget that the best way to find good culture fits is through employee referrals. “73 percent of candidates would accept a job with a lower salary if their friends and family said it was a great place to work.” When your employees find genuine fulfillment in their work, they will want to share that experience with those they care for—their real life friends.

Engagement and performance. Real life bleeds over into work regardless of how you view “work-life balance.” If an employee is going through something at home, be prepared to give them what they need so that they can take care of it. Because if their mind is at home while at work, they won’t be as engaged, and their performance will suffer.

Beyond the obvious benefits like parental leave and bereavement, look for other ways to help support employees’ ability to take care of personal issues. For example, some companies offer to pay for their employees’ vacation to ensure they get much-needed R&R and/or quality time with loved ones. Others offer flexible hours or the ability to work from home. Regardless, custom-tailor your benefits in a way that will support personal lives. Your employees will be more engaged and perform better.

We work, play, sleep, build relationships, have hobbies, run errands, and serve as members of a community. But whatever we are doing from one moment to the next, it’s all a part of life. Work is merely a piece of that puzzle. And the minute we can embrace that work is part of a larger whole, the better off we all will be.