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Corporate Wellness

Work-life balance is now about consolidation

By Paul Hebert

This whole idea of work-life balance is starting to unravel before our very eyes.

Some of us cling to it tightly, hoping we can continue to ignore emails, yammer, and text messages between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. But you know you can’t. Like the formation of a black hole – work gravity (said in my best Michael Corleone/Al Pacino voice). Work and life aren’t apart any more. The Cleavers have left the building and the reality is you must face the fact that work and life are intertwined.

Work-life balance is a historical anomaly anyway. Up until roughly the late 1800s and early 1900s, we pretty much worked until we went to sleep and started right after our artery clogging breakfast of meat and more meat. Factories created the need and the opportunity for work-life balance.

I think that idea – of the clock as a divider between work-life – is history. The present, and the future, is about the merging of those concepts – work-life – into ‘life’.

What makes up a life?

Life is the sum total of our actions and our efforts. It’s what we do from 8 to 6 as well as what we do from 6 to 8. Work-life balance isn’t about separation any more – it’s about consolidation. Life is what we do. How much of what we do that is focused on what “we” want and what “others” want is the real issue. The key is figuring out what percentage of our breathing we spend on others’ goals and how much we spend on our own.

Traditionally, you couldn’t achieve your goals if you were working on company goals – so we created work-life balance to measure those levels of time and activity exchange. But in today’s working world, a great company will try to provide you with the ability to consolidate activities so that you’re not only achieving your own goals, but you’re also achieving the company’s goals at the same time.

The exchange

This whole idea of consolidation vs. separation and balance came to me when I read a quote a friend of mine put up on twitter. The quote was from Henry David Thoreau…

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

The price (the salary/benefits/freedom) of the job is directly connected to the amount of stuff you, as an employee, have to give up in order to have that job. The more of your life you give up – the higher the cost to your life and therefore the higher the price to the employer.

The more you can consolidate what you want as an employee into what the company wants will make that exchange less one-sided. People who can achieve more of their ‘life’ while achieving a company’s business goals don’t need to sacrifice as much ‘life’, and therefore will be less sensitive to the extrinsic work benefits such as pay and perks.

The cool thing is that companies that actively find ways for their employees to consolidate work-life instead of simply balance it – are more successful and can pay more – and usually do.

So the interesting thing is that the more one works on reducing the ‘life exchange rate’, the more money you make as a company, and the greater the income (total rewards-wise) the employee will see.

I find that a pretty interesting thought.

Paul Hebert is a writer, speaker, and consultant focused on influencing behaviours and driving business results through employees, channel partners, and consumers. His mission is to humanise the business relationships companies rely on to drive greater employee, channel, and customer loyalty – and ultimately business results. Through the use of proven motivational theory, behavioral economics and social psychology he has driven extraordinary company performance for his clients. Paul is widely considered an expert on motivation and incentives. Follow Paul on twitter: @incentintel