It’s one of the great myths about modern working life, one we desperately want to believe and yet increasingly find unbelievably challenging to manage. It’s something at the heart of the middle-class dream, and yet as America’s middle class has shrunk over the past few decades, so too has the believability of a “work-life” balance shrunk as well. On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with hard work, and indeed, Americans, on average, receive fewer vacation days than their European counterparts. On the other hand, as the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” and a lack of work-life balance can dull anyone’s passion for work.
That’s not good for anyone looking to inspire excellence in their companies.
Here are just some of the culprits behind the increasing decline of work-life balance.
“An Even Split”
One of the biggest myths about work-life balance is that it’s an even split. That’s simply not possible for many employees today, given the aforementioned rise in the cost of living. The buying power of American working and middle-class wages have decreased since the 70s. You can have a work-life balance, sure – but it’s sadly not likely to be a 50/50 split anymore.
“Having it All”
This term is usually the subject of sexist attacks on women who choose to be career-minded while having a family. That increased agency completely fine, a cause and product of greater equality, and valuable for us all. The sexist history of the phrase aside; however, in a gender-neutral sense, it can be hard to “have it all.” Making partner at the firm while getting married, raising a family, and still having some “Me Time” leftover?
That’s difficult for anyone.
“Technology Will Help”
Yes, technology can speed up work, but it also makes it easier for your colleagues to bring work into your social life, as anyone who’s been emailed or texted about work while on vacation can attest. As that philosopher of our time, George Costanza once put it, “Worlds are colliding.”
Work-life balance is an essential component of The American Dream. We need to find a way to rework the former to keep the latter from descending into a nightmare.