According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 Americans worked an average of 8.5 hours on the weekdays and 5.4 hours on the weekend!
Yes, we’re all working weekends and tossing the idea of work-life balance out the window. Though some companies are trying to do more to support employees with enterprise wellness initiatives, ergonomic furniture, and providing work-life balance tips for employees, I’m here to tell you that it’s all a myth.
What work-life balance articles don’t tell you
I’ve worked with a lot of clients who say that one of their goals is to achieve work-life balance because they read an article in such and such publication. Yes, they want more time with their family. Yes, they want to work less crazy hours. Yes, they want to have more control over their schedules. However, in our coaching sessions, it quickly becomes apparent that these clients don’t really want work-life balance.
One thing that attracts many clients to me when they want to find a life coach is the fact that I’m a holistic coach who works with both personal and professional aspects of a clients’ life. So when they come to me with eloquently written work-life balance articles, I do all I can not to shake my head. What I’ve found in my own research and reading of such articles is that the advice provided is usually based upon unrealistic or ideal situations. Clients I work with usually have real-life situations like:
- terrible boss
- troubled teen
- workplace bullying
- being a single parent
- toxic work environment
- lack of trust and respect between management and associates
The list goes on. So though these clients want to be in the ideal work/life balance scenario at a job they love, that is usually not their situation. This means that much of the advice in work-life balance articles simply doesn’t work! What I have found to be effective is for a client to really evaluate the type of workplace and management that they have to deal with. From there, we work on action steps that they can apply in their particular situation.
My final word on work-life balance articles is to take anything you read with a grain of salt. Understand what can actually be applied in your situation.
Why the perceived benefits of work-life balance actually have to do with your personal life
In those glowy wonderful articles, I just mentioned I often see very long lists around the benefits of work-life balance. Those lists haunt my dreams! Clients who want to find a life coach often contact me with these same lists and rattle off want they want me to do for them.
First, I explain the million-dollar question around “what is a life coach?” and the fact that a professional life coach does not “do” the work for the client. If they want something, they have to do it themselves. A professional life coach asks powerful questions in a strategic way so that the client comes up with the right solution for themselves.
Then I explain that the benefits of work-life balance they are describing require deeper exploration in many areas of their lives during coaching sessions. Either way, I make it clear that change won’t happen overnight. However, just for fun, I’ve decided to list a few benefits of work-life balance that I often hear from clients:
- taking less sick time
- increased productivity
- better able to handle stress
- more positive attitude at work
- more collaborative spirit with team members
- better able to handle negative situations that may arise
Honestly, all of those items sound like a sales pitch in a cheesy brochure but I digress. Once clients hire a life coach like me they realize that the benefits they want will only come about when they take some action in other parts of their lives.
For example, a client who seems to take a lot of sick time may have a lot going on at home. This means they never have a chance to decompress from the stress at work. They go from one stressful environment (home) to another (work) and they are mentally and emotionally drained. The way they attempt to manage their situation is to limit their exposure to work stress by taking sick days and just staying in bed on those days.
As a professional life coach, the way I would approach this situation is by first understanding what they want. In this instance, let’s say the client wants to develop better work/life balance routines. Once they have identified that, then we would move forward by getting clear on how they plan on getting to their end goals. Next would come their identification of small, measurable action steps. One of the benefits that they would undoubtedly get from getting other parts of their lives in order would be taking less sick time from work.
This is a perfect example of how a client’s perspective on what they think needs to change isn’t really the thing that needs to change. In this example a client came to me with a list of benefits of work-life balance and through our effective partnership, they got that factors in their personal life, which were having a negative impact on their professional life, needed to be addressed. Once they start addressing those factors in their personal life, things in their professional life got better.
My final thoughts on anyone who has a list of work-life balance benefits they wish to achieve is to find a life coach who you connect with and get to the root of your issues. You will undoubtedly find that many of the things that are preventing you from moving forward at work may not be directly associated with work at all!
Achieving work-life balance is actually about awareness and overall balance
“Achieving work-life balance” is a zen pipe dream I believe all of those articles I mentioned earlier promise readers. When a client decides to hire a life coach, they quickly realize that same thing. If all of the moving parts in a client’s life were in sync and their only issues were around the demands from their job, they’d probably find another job.
The ultimate goal when it comes to both work and life is for a person to do two things:
- live from a point of greater awareness
- want more balance and engagement overall
You see, work specifically, is likely not the root of your problem. You first need to identify what you actually want to achieve. In the example we went through earlier, the client wanted to work/life balance habits. Once that was established and action steps where identified and taken, the client began to live from a point of greater awareness in their life. The ripple effect of that greater awareness allowed them to have more balance and engagement in their life overall.
Do you see how this all fits together? I hope so. I just want to get you to the point of realization that the idea of achieving work-life balance has much more to do with you working on other areas of your life that will have an impact on how you spend your time at work.
Now when it comes to developing greater awareness and gaining more balance, there are quite a few things that you can do. Some of those activities include:
- mindful meditation
- walk in/be in nature
- chakra therapy
- hire a life coach:)
- traditional counseling or therapy
Why work-life balance is important to employers
To put it simply, employers want the most bang for their buck so to speak. Every employer’s goal is to get as much use and work out of employees as possible at the lowest possible cost. No business thinks any differently. That’s just capitalism. To be fair, there are some employers who are far better than others at offering more harmonious, peaceful and collaborative environments for employees to work in. This means the need for work-life balance is seemingly taken into consideration when an employer offers certain health & wellness or alternative work programs.
The bottom line is that employers want you healthy (mentally and physically) so you can do more work for them. I hate to break it to you, but your company doesn’t really care if you’re happy or fulfilled. That’s your responsibility to address in a productive way. That’s why making the decision to hire a life coach is so important. For any adult who wants to live their best life in this day and age, you need someone to help you with structure, boundaries, and change.
Disadvantages of work-life balance
Please understand, work-life balance as a concept is not negative. However what I’ve found to be true as a professional life coach is that clients put all of their attention on “fixing” the wrong things. What I mean by that is that a client will focus on how to make changes about the time they spend at work and just stop there. They won’t take the plunge to reflect upon their lives as a whole and possibly see that their commitments outside of work may be a major factor in their tiredness, lack of engagement, etc. at work.
My conclusion is that one of the biggest disadvantages of work-life balance is the that you might think it’s the end all, be all reason that you’re stressed out. Take the time to explore the reasons you have a lack of balance in your life overall. Guess what? It’s likely not one single thing! It’s likely a bunch of things that require you to approach them with a greater sense of awareness.
Though the concept of work-life balance is appealing and everybody wants it, I’ve learned that it doesn’t actually exist. Many times people are misled by reading work-life balance articles or seeing wonderful lists of benefits that this is what they could have if they do xyz.
That’s a fantasy.
The reality is that you and I live crazy busy multifaceted lives where we all wear a million hats. As a professional life coach, I’ve seen more clients conceptually achieve work-life balance as a result of dealing with other areas of their lives.
So are you ready to take the next steps and accomplish your idea of work-life balance? Then look no further and book a session today!
Now you know where I stand on this topic, but what are your thoughts? Has anything you’ve done had an impact on your work-life balance? Comment below!
Other blog posts of interest:
♦ What is Reiki Good For?
♦ How Are You Finding Your Bliss?
♦ Overcoming Self-Sabotage: 3 Steps to Take Today
♦ 5 Ways Self-Sabotage Is Stopping You From Reaching Your Goals
♦ Secret Reasons Why Professional Coaches Are NOT Calling You Back