In 2019 I wrote about work-life blend rather than work-life balance. I was moving towards recognising that flexibility and agility were important for me rather than a totally strict split. However, it was still pretty much work or everything else because working days and school days dictated certain patterns and separation. Wind forward 5 years and so much has evolved both in my own life and in wider society.
Personally, becoming self-employed was a really big change. It took a while to adjust and I have generally found it helpful to stick to some form of day to day working hours. But because I was working from home, it became too easy to just log on and check or do a little bit more. Yes, I was doing little “home admin” bits during my coffee breaks from work, and loving being able to visit the gym in the middle of the day, but overall the work was creeping into more of the total time than I felt comfortable with. So I’ve had to put the phone and laptop away and out of sight. My brain may still be churning away thinking about work related stuff, and I may be reading a book related to work (I alternate because there is so much to read in the diversity and inclusion world), but I’m not on social media or on my laptop. So the boundaries are not hard and fast but they are there. It’s more like merging at the edges.
I’ve also realised that experiences at work add understanding to my personal life and vice versa. This is why you will find me talking about work and personal life in posts – it just feels like both are a part of me and therefore a part of what I bring to coaching and consultancy. So my work and life blur a bit on social media too – though I am careful not to let myself make that decision for others to any large extent. Yes, I will talk about my family (even on LinkedIn), but in fairly general terms. I do still have a couple of places where I have more personal stuff and don’t bring work in, but some people know me on both, and that’s fine. I guess I am learning to be more relaxed about identifying different parts of my life and therefore removing any stress about keeping them separate.
I often get clients asking me to work with them on work-life balance. It’s such an emotive subject as there is usually a lot going on. The first step is to say that everyone’s work-life perspective and experience of balance or blend is different. I’ve shared mine above but that will be different for everyone else. Maybe it is a clear balance for you – maybe it’s more merging at the edges with a bit of flexibility, or maybe, as in the image, it’s a more fluid messy but beautiful and unique creation.
Whatever it looks like for you now, the key is whether it works for you, or whether you’d like it to be different. Your balance point or blend will be different to mine, but the steps we take to find it may be the same. Where do you spend your time and energy? Is that how you’d like it to be? What recharges your batteries? When are the times and situations where you are likely to be most vulnerable and least resilient? Even if you can’t change the pattern now, knowing what you may be aiming for and taking tiny steps might help.