Work-life balance has always meant slightly different things to different people. Traditionally, it was framed within working hours, outside of which we had time for ourselves and our loved ones. However, our understanding of this balance has started to change significantly in recent years. It’s no longer (just) about fixed working hours.
Changes in work-life balance have been driven by technologies that blur boundaries, making it easier to be always available. Then, the coronavirus pandemic overlaid all this, significantly increasing the popularity of remote work. Concurrently, the pandemic encouraged a reevaluation of previously established priorities, including a renewed search for balance between different life spheres.
Soon on my blog, I will write about the future of remote and hybrid work, as we are witnessing a certain change in this aspect.
As a result of these changes, the term ‘work-life balance’ is becoming somewhat anachronistic. In the modern world, is working from 9 to 17 always the reference point for defining the balance between private and professional life? Moreover, defining what is private and what is professional is becoming more challenging, partly because many people work in conditions requiring constant skill development.
No Longer Balance, but Integration and Three-Dimensional Navigation
Instead of work-life balance, a more suitable approach for our times might be:
- ‘Work-life integration’ – the coexistence and complementing of professional and private spheres, without a clear separation.
- ‘3W Navigation’ (work-wealth-wellbeing navigation) – navigating between private, professional, and wealth spheres (including business and investment) to achieve their respective and common goals.
The concept of work-life integration is not my invention, although I interpret it in my own way. It is gaining popularity as an alternative to work-life balance. Regarding 3W Navigation, I will explain further why I propose this concept as my alternative.
In both approaches – work-life integration and 3W Navigation – we are not dealing with a one-size-fits-all solution. They consider the uniqueness of our professional and private commitments, our values and aspirations, and our natural daily rhythm.
Work-life integration suggests that work can be adapted to our life so that we can, without obstacles, attend to personal affairs like doctor’s appointments or picking up a child from kindergarten during the day (and vice versa: private life partly adapted to work). This concept is characterized by flexible and/or task-based working hours, as well as the possibility to choose the place of work.
Alternatively, we can view it through the prism of possibilities (infrastructure, equipment, organization) that work and life outside of it mutually open up. Examples are already evident: many large companies offer amenities like kindergartens, clinics, swimming pools, gyms, and even meals. In homes, we increasingly see mini offices, perfectly adapted for remote work.
We can also try to align our professional goals with our interests and values, and vice versa: so that activities after working hours facilitate our professional development.
This brings us closer to my proposal: 3W Navigation. Especially in this approach, a third area can be added: business-investment or more generally, wealth building. Running a small business alongside full-time work or investing in the stock market is also work, but strictly on our own terms, hence it is difficult to classify this in a dichotomous work-life division.
I believe that the labour market will continue to evolve (partly due to AI), making capital building important for balance and ensuring a sense of freedom. I am aware that the 3W Navigation approach is more aspirational than practical for many. However, I believe it is necessary to think about building wealth as early as possible.
What I described above is an introduction that I plan to develop in the future. Expect more articles specifically about 3W Navigation. In the meantime, let’s return to the state of balance in the classic sense, i.e., between work and so-called life.
The Golden Balance
How can we create flexible cooperation rules that benefit both employees and employers, ensuring good work results and life satisfaction?
Firstly, employees should be aware of their own daily rhythm and peak productivity periods. This self-awareness will enable better navigation between private and professional commitments.
Despite the flexibility inherent in 3W Navigation and work-life integration, setting certain boundaries is essential. In full-time work, defining these boundaries is a task for both parties, but the employer should play a special role in defining a catalogue of possibilities and setting formal frameworks.
Employees have an important duty – in a more flexible approach from the employer, it is mainly their responsibility to build trust. The work must be completed in accordance with the contract terms, including the agreed working hours.
Values, health, and mental comfort also play an increasingly important role. For greater balance, choosing a company that promotes our satisfaction and sense of self-worth is beneficial. Companies must also recognize that what they represent affects employee retention levels. Inclusiveness and gratitude for well-done work are crucial.
For me as a manager, facilitating my colleagues’ focus on their duties is important (sometimes I refer to this as focus management). This is not always easy; boundaries within responsibility scopes can be blurred, especially in a dynamic work environment. I rarely encroach on time outside of work (though sometimes it’s necessary, sorry).
Finally, rest and sleep are fundamental. Their lack can distort our assessment of the current situation and the choices and opportunities before us. Let’s ensure that our preferred way of regeneration is part of our daily routine. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about, having worked up to 16 hours a day.
For Small or Large Companies?
The smaller the company, the easier it is to adopt an individual approach. However, I believe that even in the corporate world, flexibility is possible. Since there are catalogues of employee benefits, there could be a list of possibilities from which employees could choose the most necessary rules of cooperation for them. Moreover, in the era of AI, this can certainly be translated into corporate systems to some extent.
I am convinced that creating working conditions that consider the individual needs of employees and their daily rhythm will benefit companies. The result of introducing such rules can be greater productivity and increased employee loyalty.
I invite you to ask yourself a few questions about whether you feel the right balance, what you understand by it, and what changes you can introduce.
I also encourage you to subscribe to the newsletter, where I plan to inform about further entries and more! Good luck in finding the right balance!