There are some phrases that I never want to hear again. One of them is “work-life balance.” It is an unattainable goal especially after living with two years of Covid-19.
Those of us who used to work outside of our homes remember the joy of the unexpected water cooler conversation, the energy generated from in-person meetings, and the self-respect that comes with getting dressed for work (full disclosure, I am currently writing this missive in my PJs).
There was joy too, in having time to exercise, make dinner for our families, and hang out with our kids in the evenings.
Even in days pre-Covid these were not neat categories of our lives. We would think about our kids during our work hours and we would take work calls and respond to messages we sat next to our kids while they did their math homework.
Our work selves and our home selves have never felt fully ‘balanced.’ And those who say they have felt that balance, are probably lying.
So even more so, when our kids are back in an online school and when we have had to push off work deadlines because we have fallen ill from Omicron, we need to realign our language so that it better reflects the reality of our lives today.
Here are two phrases I like a lot more:
-Work-life integration (instead of work-life balance)
-Working with home (instead of working from home)
These concepts reflect our reality more accurately. They also expand our humanity.
We are whole people – not one way at work and another way at home. Consider this:
What if we brought the patience we have for our kids when they are learning something new to a new colleague who is struggling to get up to speed with his job?
What if we brought our even-tempered, problem-solving selves into our home lives, and instead of being triggered and reacting disproportionately to our kids or spouse, we managed conflicts that arise with a bit more distance as we would with a work colleague?
And what if the proximity of our work and our homes enables our children to actually know what we do for a living, and our colleagues to actually know who our kids are too.
Work-life integration, or working with home can help our colleagues understand our home context. We are not only workers who fulfill a particular role to advance a project, mission, or vision, we are full people who are leading our families with all of the joys and the struggles that it brings.
So the next time you are drawn to create more work-life balance, I invite you to pause and consider how the different pieces of your life – your passion for your work outside of your family, and your leadership of your own family can help you cultivate a fuller, richer and more nuanced YOU. And the world will be better for it,
Blessings for the journey,