What Is A Work/Life Balance?

Overwork leads to stress. Stress leads to burnout. Burnout costs American workplaces nearly $1 billion a year in lost time and productivity.

Work/life balance is one of the tools used to combat overwork but while this idea is not new, each generation of workers interprets it slightly differently. 

Work/Life Balance The Latest Understanding

In the Baby Boom generation work-life balance wasn’t something that people sought out.

They’d entered a post-war economy in which people were just grateful to have a job and some kind of stability. 

It might come as no surprise that nearly 80% of Boomers in the workforce say that they feel constantly stressed, though. 

Gen X and Work/Life Balance

Gen X learned from the mistakes of the Boomers though and because they entered a more favorable job market – they wanted to see a better work/life balance.

They expect to be able to take vacations, maternity (and more recently paternity) leave and even to be able to telecommute as part of their relationship with employers.

This is the traditional concept of work-life balance. Where the time outside of work for an employee is in balance with the time spent inside it.

Millennials And Work/Life Balance

However, millennials don’t see work/life balance in the same light as Gen X and, in fact, they tend to reject the traditional structure of work which Gen X embraces.

They see work/life balance as something far more intrinsic to the fabric of work and that their work ought to support their lifestyle out of work. 

Research into this, by Bank of America, shows that nearly 60% of millennials are worried that their work won’t provide this balance, mind you. 

Working From Home And Work/Life Balance

Remote workers and those who work from home, on the other hand, are faced with a brand new challenge in the area of work/life balance.

How do you balance work with life when it’s always with you? The traditional office worker has had the ability to leave the office behind and go home.

The home worker wakes up in their office and never leaves. 

And, in fact, many home workers and remote workers find this aspect of life very stressful, indeed. 

The coronavirus may have seen many workers reassigned to working from home, for example, but there have been endless reports in the media and social media about people wishing they could go back to the office.

One of the most common complaints is that working from home leads to people working harder in fear that their work is no longer “visible” in the way it would be in an office.

Work-life balance in this situation may require redefining how you approach work that you carry out at home and setting hard boundaries with “the team” with respect to your availability and output. 

Work/Life Balance The Only Definition That Matters

Of course, these are broad and generic brush strokes. 

Not every millennial is looking for a job that supports their lifestyle and not every Gen X worker needs a great vacation policy to commit to a job. 

When it boils down to it, there’s only one definition of work/life balance that matters and that’s your own.

If you can come to an understanding of how you’d like to divide yourself between work and non-work life then you can communicate this effectively with management (or at interviews) and establish practices that support this. 

For example, a home worker might opt to only answer the phone between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., to stop answering emails outside of this time and only to work from one room in the house. 

This isn’t unreasonable or unduly demanding but it may require negotiation with both your boss and your family to make it work. 

For a millennial, it might mean a shift to hybrid working so that they still see the social benefits of an office and get the benefits of working from home too. And so on…

Work/life balance means different things to different people. If you can determine what you want from this and then negotiate for it to happen – you can cut down on workplace stress and reduce the risk of burnout. 

If you’re concerned about your own work/life balance, you might want to check out our article on how to avoid burnout or start listening to this awesome music for working from home, it can help you stay relaxed.