In the past, people talked about a balance between work and life. The term made sense because there was a clear boundary between the two, home and office. Having a balance meant not allowing one to intrude too much on the other.
But today, the term has outlived its usefulness. The boundary between work and home life has become more fluid and murky. It’s not as easy to tell anymore where one begins and the other ends. That’s because work schedules have become much more flexible and remote work has become much more prevalent. Added to that is the fact that mobile technology has also blurred the lines between the two.
People can conduct business from anywhere at any time.
From Work-Life Balance to Work-Life Negotiation
Because of these changes, some business experts argue it’s time to replace the concept of work-life balance with one of work-life negotiation. You are looking to satisfy two competing interests, and the best way to do this, they say, is to negotiate.
So, it becomes a question not of finding a balance, but more of a give and take. Sometimes we can give more to our work, and sometimes we give more to our home life. It all depends on how our needs and circumstances change.
It is this unpredictability that makes the concept of negotiation so useful here. You don’t know when you will need to devote more time to one or the other. For example, you may need to work late this week, but then you can make up for it by taking more time for yourself the following week.
For this negotiation to really work well, the company also needs to support it. Companies need to give employees the flexibility required to do the negotiating. For example, they need to give employees the ability to take care of personal matters during the workday in the same way that they expect employees to handle work issues during their personal time.
Companies need to be flexible enough to focus on outcomes rather than just the amount of time spent on work for remote employees. And for people who must be in the office, companies can employ technology to enable them to choose their schedules and exchange shifts.
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