Work life balance... And no, a BBQ on Friday doesn't count

I recently had a conversation with a manager within a white collar company who mentioned that "work/life balance is something that we strive for". It was interesting to see exactly what this term of "work/life balance" (WLB) actually meant to the company.

It meant things like a BBQ on Fridays, casual dress, team building exercises that allowed even non-creative people to pitch their ideas, and a general emphasis on hiring people who would fit in with the existing employees.

All of which is great, and none of which has anything to do with work life balance. These employee benefits are all about creating a great corporate culture, but do nothing to help balance the demands of life and work.

In my opinion, WLB has become the new "great communication skills" of corporate lingo.

How many job advertisements have you seen requiring applicants to have "great communication skills"? I'd hazard a guess that the majority of job descriptions list communication skills somewhere. And ironically if you ever asked the person doing the interview what they meant by "great communication skills", I think you would find that they would be very bad at communicating it.

The term WLB seems to now have the same meaninglessness. Everyone wants it, everyone says they have it, but so very few can actually articulate exactly what it means, let alone implement it within a business environment.

To understand WLB, you first need to understand what are common "life" demands. This includes things like peak hour travel time, getting the car serviced, being able to call the bank during business hours, family commitments that regularly fall within the hours or 9 - 5, being able to take care of sick children etc.

You can create a fun, energising, rewarding and relaxed workplace, but if it does nothing to help employees deal with these simple life demands, you have not achieved WLB.


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