Work-life balance

20. October 2020

How do I find the right balance?

The term “work-life balance” has been hotly debated for several years. People today are striving to achieve a good quality of life. In addition, “faster, higher, further” has been out of favour since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Finding the balance between career, work and private life is very popular today. Everyone is looking for a good relationship between their personal and professional life.

If you search for the term “work-life balance” on Google, it returns 160 million hits. This shows that a lot of people are thinking about their work and how it can be better designed.

Work is no longer the main goal in life

Work should no longer be the most important value that defines individuals and even society as a whole, says author Tanja Schug, who deals with the working world of the future. She says that excessive consumption is also becoming less important for the younger generation. So it’s not just the world of work that is being put to the test today: people are aiming to achieve work-life balance by bringing their work into a healthy equilibrium with all other areas of their life.

Balancing work, family, social activities and leisure time poses a great challenge for many people. In addition, there is often the pressure of deadlines and lurking competition. This is often the real cause of burnout and depression. There’s no need to go into more detail here about the consequences of burnout and depression.

We should not forget that people in the Western world have more free time than ever before, yet they complain that they never have enough time and that they are constantly under stress. For this reason, many people are seeking to achieve a state of equilibrium in today’s hectic world. As far as possible, we should try to avoid the different areas of our life, that is to say work, career and family, having a negative influence on other areas of our life.

When it comes to work-life balance, however, according to Wikipedia there is often an emphasis on individual decision-making and self-organisation on the one hand and the comparison between employee and employer interests on the other. And this is when the first conflicts of interest arise with Generation Z.

“Anyone who needs to do yoga after working for six hours is of no use to us,” said Hamburg tech founder Mathias Keswani in a recent interview with Die Welt. Many young people’s expectations of their employers are too high, and they prefer to do yoga instead of working, he said. Quite a few employers would agree with him.

The search for the meaning of life

But this view fails to take a few things into account. For many people, striking a balance between career, work and family is a clear priority. Some would also like to have more time off work, for example in the form of partial retirement or time for healthcare, which would actually result in many advantages for employers.

When it comes to personnel policy, companies and organisations with an orientation towards work-life balance and diversity can enjoy a competitive advantage on the employment market. Andreas Monning writes in the Tagesspiegel: “Work-life balance as a competitive advantage. Enabling a work-life balance and positioning your company as a family-friendly organisation offers advantages in terms of recruiting and motivating employees, and also serves to reduce employee turnover ”.

Finding your own concept of happiness

Way back in 2001, journalist Elisabeth von Thadden stated in an article in Die Zeit: “In Europe there is a significant counter-movement away from complete availability for the employment market. A counter-movement that aims to respect individuals not only as a functionaries in the company, but as people responsible for a family and their own mental health. We are looking for skilled workers with a sense of family”.

As we can see from these statements, the issue of work-life balance is not a Generation Z neurosis, but a cross-generational need that should be taken seriously. Both the baby boomer generation and Generation X (millennials) strive for a balance between the different areas of their life, although there are clear differences in their attitudes towards work-life balance.

The baby boomers want a balance between work and family: work is seen more as a burden, and they demand compensation in order to achieve a life balance.In the issue of Time magazine from July 5, 2007, it states that “for Generation X, alternating phases of employment and phases of raising children or non-professional activities are more important”. It is sometimes emphasized that work-life balance is about putting the meaning of work into a suitable perspective with regard to life as a whole, says the philosopher Wilhelm Schmid.

Some employees work longer than contractually agreed and demand a better work-life balance; a small but growing minority of employees are aware of their influence as talented individuals and are switching employers in the hope of achieving their wish to enjoy a fulfilling life outside of work, write authors Caroline Glynn, Ingrid Steinberg and Claire McCartney in “Work-Life-Balance: The Role of the Manager”.

So in the future, employers will have to compete for the most highly skilled workers. It used to be said that “work is the salt of life”, and this is not entirely incorrect. We help to shape our society through work, and it’s still also how we make most of our social contacts. Right now, in this era of working from home, many people are missing their colleagues.

Work can also make you happy

So it’s not about the work itself, but about how we work. Work also gives people the feeling that they are needed, and we often define our self-worth in terms of work. People identify with what they do, how well they do it and how successful they are. In short, work can also make you happy.

Some even believe that we have become unnecessarily obsessed with our work-life balance. Psychological studies have long shown that people need work in order to feel good. We know this from people who have retired. At first they take up their hobbies with enthusiasm, but after a few months they feel unfulfilled and start looking for new tasks. Once they have found new tasks, they become significantly happier again.

The fact remains that we should keep work, leisure and family in context and not ignore any areas of our life. However, self-management and time management do not necessarily lead to achieving a good work-life balance.If you spend more time on your hobbies, that’s less time for your family, and your time management has been badly planned. Merely scratching the surface isn’t going to help much. It’s better to find a balance that includes all areas of your life.

Naturally you should set priorities when dividing your time, but you could also question whether keeping lists, creating calendars and having a well-planned daily routine lead to a better work-life balance. Work is and will remain a large part of our lives, and it’s simply more difficult to separate it from the rest of our life than it was in our grandparents’ day.

What is work-life blending?

In the age of working from home, a new term is being added – work-life blending.

Work-life blending is the merging of work and private life, that is to say removing the clear boundaries between these two areas. The business portal describes work-life blending as follows: “The consequence of linking these two areas is constant availability, even during what is meant to be free time. Some of your job is carried out by working from home, while conversely you can also take care of some private matters during working hours”. It’s about integrating your private life into your everyday working routine. It sounds great at first. Unfortunately, the whole thing has the disadvantage that you’re always mentally in the office and never really switch off properly.

The disadvantages of the work-life blending concept are obvious. The mix is rarely balanced and often comes at the expense of devoting time to family and leisure. The result: working hours are getting longer, and the constant availability associated with this means that your private life falls victim to your job.

Blake Snow, author of the book “Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting”, has sharply criticised work-life blending. In his view, it’s a pipe dream – nothing more than a new term coined by workaholics to justify the way they think they have to live.

Well, just to be on the safe side, we’ll be sticking to a healthy work-life balance. Over the past few months, many of us have experienced how mixing work and private life is not necessarily the best solution. Working from home must not become permanent.

We will deal with the concept of “new work” in another post. “New work” stands for a new understanding of work in times of globalisation and digitisation, or the path to Work 4.0. Sounds good.

With that in mind, make sure you don’t work too hard! Stay healthy!