Work Life Balance. What does this term or concept really mean? What is it trying to achieve? It is a term commonly used and discussed these days. Places of work often refer to people having or needing to have a Work Life Balance, giving the concept a very organisational feel. But in reality, it is a term whose meaning and relevance is indeed unique to a person’s specific circumstances and needs, thus intricately personal. While from an organisational level it urges a distinction and some flexibility between work and non work-related pursuits, and it highlights the need to reassess one’s personal situation, the concept itself, is problematic. Work. Life. Balance. Is that order right? Do we focus on work, get that working (no pun intended!) and then think, life? Add aspects of ‘life’ into the equation and then stand back and consider, are these two important factors balanced? Perhaps it should be Life Work Balance. After all, don’t we live before we work? Or perhaps it really should just focus on Personal Balance – in my case, The Kylie Balance? In my mind, the concept of Work Life Balance (The Kylie Balance!) is all about the ability to stand back from one’s world and appropriately consider and see what’s happening, what’s important – and what’s not. Only when you stand back rather than being embroiled in life and work, can you really see clarity to assess if things are really working. As an individual, my opinion on work life balance is unique to my own personal and work-related ideas, ethics and goals. It is based on my personal feelings of satisfaction between my needs as an individual in my personal life and also in my working life. And understanding that life and work change, and the value proposition between the two changes also, it is relatively simple for me to see that as my career has evolved, so too has the balance shifted between work and life – sometimes under my direction, sometimes not! But while this might not be challenging for me to see, others find the distinction and ability to discover a state of equilibrium between work and personal life very difficult. That’s when the diagram of change helps paint a picture. Diagram 1.1: The Diagram of Change
LIFE – the span of an individuals career
The above helps paint a picture and shows how personal factors like children, the death of a loved one or financial demands, as well as work related factors which could include a new job, changes in the workplace environment, workplace stress or a pay increase can sway the balance of equilibrium between a person’s personal life and their working life. The blue line represents balance and the red line, life elements that impact the scale of balance between personal and work life. These factors will all be unique to an individual.
Take five people from the same team and ask them to consider for a moment and then define ‘work’ and then ‘life’. Indeed, do the same for ‘balance’. While I am confident most will respond with different views – there will be some underlying similarities. This is especially the case when they reach balance, and start to see why you are asking them to think about their work and life and the perceived balance between the two. Certain conditions, in varying forms, are important to all employees. In our team, flexibility in working hours and conditions ranked highly among the five team members. This links strongly with the need to balance child and family time with working hours as well as the ability to have flexible leave options. Other general themes related to fairness and equality in the workplace – irregardless of role, the ability to have fun while at work and trust. Now ask the same people to do the exercise again – but this time, do it in relation to a project you are all involved in. As a case study example, I used the model of Geelong’s current film festival, the Shoot Out Geelong 24-Hour Filmmaking Festival. Before looking at the results, let’s take...