In order to create a balance between work and life, we must first define where work stops and life begins. In our fast technological world, it is getting harder and harder to do.
Work’s fine, thank you. But what about life?
For many of us, work is a central part of life. A lot of our hours are invested in working, commuting to and from work, and thinking about work when we get home. What’s amazing about this, is that just a few short decades ago, some very serious people thought our working habits should go the other way around. In 1932, the mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote about a world of four hours workday. In 1883, Paul Lafargue, a French journalist and activist wrote The Right To Be Lazy, asking people to open their eyes and stop seeing work as the only human condition. He asked people to be aware of the devastating results of an overworked society.
When our mind is always occupied by one thing, it is not attentive to other things. If that one thing is work, what is being neglected can be any one of numerous things. For both Russel and Lafargue, what is being neglected is leisure time and therefore human creativity and social justice. Russell writes:
“The wise use of leisure, it must be conceded, is a product of civilization and education. A man who has worked long hours all his life will become bored if he becomes suddenly idle. But without a considerable amount of leisure a man is cut off from many of the best things.”
When it comes to work-life balance, it is obvious that it is about making space and time for the “life” part of the equation.
start with some questions
One of the interesting things about staying at home for a long time is the opportunity to think about my work-life balance. Was I spending my time deliberately, in a way that reflects my priorities and beliefs? Was I giving enough time and attention to my home and family? Was I spending enough time doing things I truly like?
These questions tend to arise in times of crisis like this. When people have to get off the racing track for a while. Only then one might stop and gain perspective, think about a way to balance the different parts of life. It is not only food for thought these days, but it is also the actual way we live. It seems that our lives are transforming towards more living and less working.
Nigel Marsh says it is easy to balance your work and your life when you don’t work. It may be hard to believe now, but the quarantine will be over someday. And when it does, the issues we left hanging will still wait for us. What portion of my time am I dedicating to things I chose? Things that make my life more interesting and worth living? Have I achieved the desired balance? Do I even know what this balance looks like for me? Can I protect my leisure time and have some space for creativity? The time in quarantine might have created space for those questions, but the answers and the actions are to be tested in the life that we will return to, hopefully soon.