Work-life balance o Life Work Balance? A change of perspective

“Framing the issue of work-life balance – as if the two were dramatically opposed – practically ensures work will lose out. Who would ever choose work over life?”
– Sheryl Sandberg

Work-life balance. We all know this formula used (often abused) to talk about the delicate issue of the balance that should exist between work and a person’s private life. From an almost total lack of interest in the subject, in the last 10 years we have seen an increasing attention: companies, entrepreneurs, managers have understood that it was necessary to take care of people as well as their results. Slowly, therefore, companies have begun to build corporate welfare systems, showing interest in employees’ well-being during their working hours, which went beyond the mere question of wages. After that, several new habits came out: the practice of smart-working, open spaces that encourage sharing, relaxation areas within offices and much more.

But if it is true that these systems pass through greater care for the health and happiness of people, it is also true that the goal is still linked to the business: to increase productivity and above all to attract talents, who will tend to prefer those companies that offer a certain working well-being. The focus remains on “work”, in short, which continues to be ahead of “life”.

Furthermore, we often realize that these admirable efforts by the company in improving corporate welfare do not lead to the desired results: there is a low use of smart working, for example, or people complain about open spaces for too much noise; sometimes, the relaxation areas are almost deserted, for fear of making a bad impression with the boss or with colleagues.

And here we are at the second problem: working well and enjoying life are two actions in total contrast in the minds of many. “If I use smart working they will think that I am at home doing nothing”; “If I leave the office early, they’ll think I’m a launderer.” Or again: “If I happen to go out in the open space to answer a phone call, someone will say that I go out and mind my own business. Let alone if I can play a game of table football in the relaxation area! ”

And not infrequently it happens that this interpretation of reality actually reflects the thinking of some colleagues or some top management.

The same mechanism occurs in reverse: “Once I leave the office I don’t want to know anything more”. “Now I have to take care of my things”. In short, it is absolutely forbidden to take work home.

It is evident how, in such an atmosphere, it is difficult to operate innovative welfare systems such as smart working, open spaces or relaxation areas.

Work and life, in short, are in constant war with each other and all our energies are dedicated to not letting one or the other succumb.

Finally, I can’t help but notice that between the two words work and life there is a dash: work-dash-life.

As if to graphically underline the contrast between the two concepts. Almost like wanting to separate the two areas of interest: life begins where work ends and vice versa.

I firmly believe that, if we want to build a system that really works, a change of conceptual and operational perspective is necessary.

First of all, we must change the protagonist of the matter: no longer the company but the individual. We ourselves must be the first to be interested in our work-life balance, and companies must combine the absolutely positive measures already mentioned with a path of awareness and responsibility of the individual person, so as to stimulate him to work in the direction of a correct balance.

In short, we must start with the life element to improve the work element.

Secondly, it is necessary to break down the prejudice that sees life and work in constant war with each other. In marketing we often talk about the so-called win-win formula, that is a condition in which both the actors involved come out winners. Here, the win-win formula is the only direction to take when looking for a correct work-life balance. The two worlds are inevitably connected to each other by a directly proportional relationship: the higher my level of personal satisfaction, the higher my level of professional satisfaction will be; and the formula, of course, also works by reversing the two terms.

Not only that: the more I will be able to contaminate my personal life with my professional skills and vice versa, the greater will be my effectiveness and efficiency in both fields of action. In essence, I will become better both as an individual and as a professional.

We must, therefore, eliminate the hyphen between the words life and work. Here, then, is that work-life balance becomes life work balance: an approach that starts with the individual and, through a harmonious synergy between life and work, brings him to his maximum level of effectiveness and happiness.

Because, as Octavio Paz wrote: “The Universe is a bipartite system of fluctuating and complementary rhythms“.