Sociologists and HR experts have been discussing the topic of work-life balance for more than two decades. Many proposals for achieving such balance have been offered, yet success has been elusive thus far. Now we have COVID’s ‘new normal’ to deal with. Is the coveted work-life balance now more elusive as a result?
COVID ushered in systemic societal changes that have affected everything from kids attending school to where mom and dad do their work. Remote education and work have blurred the line between family life and everything outside of it. As such, there is some legitimate concern that working adults might find it even more difficult to maintain a legitimate balance moving forward.
Of course, the question of whether or not balance was ever really achievable must be considered. After all, adults work 8 to 10 hours per day. They sleep another 6 to 8. That leaves only eight hours for everything else. Can life truly be balanced when you are trying to raise kids, pay the bills, and prepare for eventual retirement?
Work-Life Balance and Discipline
To the extent that work-life balance is achievable, it requires some measure of discipline. At least that is the position taken by Dallas-based BenefitMall in a recent blog post on the topic. BenefitMall is a general agency with a history of involvement in HR and payroll.
Their blog post discusses how companies can promote a good work-life balance by changing the culture. And one of the ways they suggest changing the culture is through exercising a bit more discipline. For example, companies can exercise discipline by:
- establishing well-defined work hours
- encouraging employees to unplug after hours
- adopting the mindset that nothing is earth-shattering
- encouraging a team effort wherever applicable.
The idea of changing the culture is to do so in a way that allows employees the freedom to give their lives away from work just as much attention as work itself. That is not always easy for management or ownership.
COVID and Remote Work
BenefitMall’s blog post echoed another concern previously shared by others: remote work is encouraging employees to put in more hours every day. Instead of taking back the time they would have previously spent commuting, some are using that time to get more work done. That is fine from a productivity standpoint, but to give commuting time to the company instead of keeping it for oneself is to defeat one of the primary benefits of working from home.
In terms of COVID, it is probably safe to say that most of us expected all of this to be over by now. The fact that we are still talking about it only further solidifies the possibility that some people will be working remotely for the rest of their careers. And if that is the case, they may never be able to adequately achieve the work-life balance they want.
A Separation in the Mind
Perhaps work-life balance has been so elusive thus far because we have been approaching it from the wrong angle. Maybe it is not exclusively a matter of introducing new technology or coming up with new company policies. Perhaps balance is achieved only when we create a clear separation in the mind.
Work is important and necessary. But it is not more important or necessary than family. Perhaps achieving work-life balance in the post-COVID era is about making a commitment to giving both the attention they deserve. Making such a commitment, and following through on it, would organically force a change in company culture and employee work habits. Could it be that simple?