Work-life balance is a crock of hot garbage. Let’s re-brand it.

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Companies love to rebrand things, often thinking that simply changing the name of a product or concept will suddenly result in millions more dollars flowing in. (It won’t.) Here’s what really needs some rebranding in the corporate world: the whole idea of work-life balance.

Here’s the essential problem:

  • When a regular, rank-and-file employee hears that term, they think it’s corporate BS fueled by buzzwords.
  • When a hard-driving manager hears that term, they think “People will be working less? But we have targets to hit!”
  • Both sides are frustrated and kind of assume it’s an impossible place to reach, especially in cultures where throwing yourself on The Cross of Busy is crucial to your relevance.

Towers Watson actually did a study a little while back showing that — assuming you can do it right — the whole idea of “work-life balance” is actually the third-most valuable element to your ultimate revenue success.

So maybe it is something we need to pay attention to, but … we need to get a little more clarity around it.

Here’s an interview in Fast Company with some analytics company CEO in the Mid-Atlantic talking about the value of saying no. Some parts are extremely annoying to read, but this part makes a ton of sense:

If you’re the person who says yes to every project, that’s a dangerous mentality to get into. Let’s not talk about work/life balance: Let’s just talk about living, about making great choices both at work and home.”

Yep. It’s the same philosophy as … well, eventually you need to start killing off good ideas and focusing on the stuff that moreso matters.

Oftentimes the problem with any issue is how we talk about it; you see this most clearly in terms of the abortion debate, possibly. Work-life balance is an unicorn/buzzword concept to almost everyone. So why are we still using it? Let’s call it “Choice Management” or something. OK, that was terrible and sounds even more buzzword-y.

Remember what I said above about people rebranding and assuming they will suddenly make all this new money off the rebrand? That doesn’t happen. You know why? “Re-branding” to most people typically means moving around “brand guidelines” or a logo on a PDF. Consumers of products aren’t looking for that. They want to understand how this thing will impact their life. When all you do is change a few bullet points internally and call it a “re-brand,” that won’t hit your bottom line at all. If you change a feature or idea or story around your product/offering, it might.

It’s the same way here: we need to change the story around work-life balance.

The sheer fact is, we’re not nearly as busy as we think we are. So if we could find a way to design work cultures around “achieving responsibilities and exiting to spend time with loved ones” as opposed to “constantly referencing how much is on your plate to showcase your value,” maybe we could change the narrative.

This all comes back to how humans derive value; for many, it’s the idea of “I need to be busy, because busy means I’m relevant and important.” That’s not at all true. Busy means you’re terrible at making choices and prioritizing what needs to be done vs. what doesn’t.

Why do we praise that?

My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and you can learn about hiring me for freelance and contract gigs as well. You can also subscribe to my newsletter.

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