Wikipedia defines Work–life balance as a concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation)
Journalistic attempts at simplifying this complex concept have only created confusion and frustration. This is just an attempt to put forward some aspects that determine what it means to different people with a special emphasis on Indian context.
Since the word balance is used in conjunction with work-life, we tend to assume that there should be equal balance between work and life! Leading to discussions on working hours, flexible timing, working from home, commute times, gym at work, laundry at work, etc., A lot has been reported and written about the recent proposal in Sweden to move to a 6-hour work day.
When the minimum wage is as much as it is in countries like US or Sweden or UK vs what it is in emerging countries like India, the very thought of surviving and having a satisfying life with minimum wage in India is not a comforting thought.
As your priorities change over time and depending on which stage of life you are in the very definition of work-life balance changes……The right balance for you when you start your career will be different from when you marry, or if you have children; when you start a new career versus when you are nearing retirement. In an emerging country like India, where the aspiration of many employees includes basic social security, car, house, etc., with many first generation private sector employees the focus is to succeed and succeed fast. Ask a middle aged private sector employee in India what he or she will do if they were to go home by 5pm, the answers would be far removed from what responses you’d get from similar people in developed countries – golf, take kids to the play ground, gym, catch a play, pursue a hobby, etc.,
For most of us an effective work-life balance definition are two key concepts – dailyAccomplishment and Enjoyment, simple but true! Do you look forward to going to work? Do you look forward to going back home or to your friends or to the gym or interest group? As long as you are enjoying what you are doing and as long as you are achieving life goals or career advancement – do you really care about the number of hours?
If you enjoy what you are doing, as in the case of many who are toiling for hours on end in the many startups across the world, work-life balance for them means more hours to accomplish what they have set out to do! The thought of a 6 hour or 12 hour work day never crosses their mind.
To summarize the concept of work-life balance is fluid as is life, at various stages of our life we seek a tilt towards work or life, but at all times we expect to work-life to translate into Pride, Satisfaction, Happiness, Celebration, Love, A Sense of Well Being.
Would love to hear what you think about the definition of work-life balance…. Write in!