Why ‘Work-Life Balance’ is a bad phrase
We’ve been talking a lot lately about building a great business that endures here at ModCloth over the last several months. One of the phrases that often comes up in this context is “work-life balance.’ The more I think about the phrase, the more I realize that it is framed incorrectly. It drives people towards an unhealthy way of thinking. So we should change it.
When I search the net for the definition of the word ‘balance,’ here are some definitions that come up:
- a state of equilibrium
- equality of distribution
- harmonious arrangement or relation of parts or elements within a whole
- the difference in magnitude between opposing forces or influences
All of these definitions get me to thinking the same thing: balance is about having the ‘right amount’ of something. If you have too much or too little of something, you are inherently out of balance. So the term ‘work-life balance’ makes me feel like my work and my life are somehow at odds. They are opposing forces that I must find a way to balance.
Bottom line: I don’t like it. I want more from life. I spend my time working because I want to — I enjoy spending my time doing it. The things I enjoy should not be at odds with my life; they are my life.
So, it’s time to use a new term: Work-Life Alignment.
Why ‘Work-Life Alignment’ is better
Now we’re talking! Work-life alignment jives a lot better with the kind of life I want to live. The thing that I do for more than 10 hours a day should not have to be ‘balanced’ with my life. It should be aligned with my life.
When I look up the word ‘alignment,’ I find:
- bring into proper or desirable coordination correlation
- alliance or union with a party, cause, etc.
- integration or harmonization of aims, practices
I spend my time working with excellent people who challenge me everyday. The skills I want to hone align directly with what I do for a living. I also am fortunate enough to spend some time ‘working’ with my wife — on a business that she started and I invested in. For me, my work happens to be a big part of my life. The word ‘alignment’ captures that much better than ‘balance’ does!
When people ask me about ‘work-life balance,’ I have a hard time answering them because I think their question is framed incorrectly. Next time, I’ll tell them that I don’t believe in work-life balance; I believe in work-life alignment!