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Why work-life balance is the wrong idea

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The corporate world is susceptible to fads.

Work-life balance, a push to properly prioritize work in relation to lifestyle, features the kind of fad-ish thinking that can lead gifted people down the wrong path. It’s something that I’ve noticed in my role as co-founder and managing partner for Y Scouts (, a purpose-based leadership search firm.

Think of those who love their job — for them, it’s not exactly “work” as they exercise their capabilities fully toward a goal that they believe in.

Finding the right fit — whether an organization is searching for leadership or an individual is seeking the right job — is more important than people realize. The problem of work-life balance starts farther upstream. When the appropriate person is aligned with the appropriate goal, balance is natural.

A concept like work-life balance is a claim on how we should prioritize our lives, which, if believed, can be confusing. An organization’s employees, from bottom to top, can benefit from a more helpful perspective.

Don’t buy into the notion of the “work you” as being separate from the “real you.” We spend 8.8 hours of each day working, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics – the largest amount of time spent in any single activity (sleeping is second at 7.6 hours). Work-life balance enforces a strange notion that you are essentially different on the clock than off the clock, which hurts both employers and employees. Who wants this divided personality? Why not be yourself while doing what’s important – providing for your well-being and that of your family?

Costumes are for Halloween. In my line of work, I want to offer a leader who is authentic and not some impostor version of who they really are.

Not everyone is working for the weekend. Rather than work-life balance, it’s more helpful to think of your role in a company or nonprofit as work-life symbiosis. Just do the math. Working nearly nine hours in a role that you do not like doesn’t stack up well with two days that quickly pass by – assuming you hate your job. How many years of your life do you want to waste not doing what would make you happier?

Most importantly of all is aligning the right people with the right role. That means aligning the purpose and values of an organization to the purpose and values of the right people. Everyone owes it to themselves to find the right organization.

Take a cue from your technology. In today’s world, we simply cannot compartmentalize different areas of our lives like people used to. You can communicate with your spouse at any time and know people better through social media than through real-life interaction. And, for work, most of us carry our work around in our smartphones. If not text messages, then we get emails sent to our phones.

Whether through our technology or the software running in our brains, we don’t simply turn off work when we leave the office. We should drop the idea that “work” and “life” are somehow separate. They’re not.


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