In my role as a recruiter, I have had the opportunity to talk to candidates for a variety of companies from Fortune 100 to small startups. With a few exceptions, most companies solicit the concept of a good work/life balance. At the same time, I have had the privilege to recruit and hire people at all stages of professionalism from Entry-Level candidates fresh out of school to Sr. VPs. Again, the overwhelmingly most common question is around the concept of work/life balance. So if the most common question aligns with one of the most common offerings, it should be easy, right?
According to businessdictionary.com, work/life balance is a “comfortable state of equilibrium achieved between an employee's primary priorities of their employment position and their private lifestyle.” This definition, like most, seems to emphasize the separation of work and life into two different categories, but I do not believe this to be an effective (or efficient) approach to business.
As recruiters, when a candidate asks if there is a good work/life balance, we say yes. Not because we are on the same page as the candidate, but because we can’t say no or dig into what the candidate actually means. If the candidate means can they expect to come in and work an 8 hour day, then probably not, but I don’t think they really want that either. People need to be able to do some personal things at work and need to do some work things at home. Work/Life balance should be more about the integration of work and life opposed to the separation of the two. Separating work and life usually leads to inefficiencies that reduce the productivity of the work force. The separation causes people to be unwilling or resentful when they need to work a little bit longer to get something done. The separation has employees packing up their stuff at 4:25 and staring at the clock until 4:30 when it is time to leave.
Work/life integration looks different. In a company that has a strong culture that values work/life balance, employees are comfortable taking a personal call at work or can comfortably leave a little bit early if they need to get something done. Ultimately it encourages you to be human, be yourself. In the end, there is mutual benefit for the employee and company alike. Employees feel more ownership of their responsibilities. The ability to be yourself helps to form deeper relationships where the team genuinely cares for each other and wants to help each other out when needed. This encourages the teamwork and collaborative environment that most companies long for. This does not mean that an employee never unplugs. Employees feel comfortable disconnecting from work because they are encouraged by the organization to recharge periodically.
People do not love to go into work everyday, I am not naive to that. If you are able to blend the lines between the work version of you and the personal version, you will not dread coming into work on Mondays. Who knows, you may even enjoy going into work on more days than you don’t.