Work-life balance" is a term that you hear long before you enter the workforce, only to find that it is kind of a myth in the real world. Especially when you’re starting out, you’re constantly under pressure to prove yourself, learn as much as you can and do everything you can to ensure that you move up. Increased competition means that businesses also push their employees to work harder, and increased connectivity means that you now have the obligation to take your work with you.

As you do whatever it takes to further your career, you find that other parts of your life are falling behind, leading to a growing sense of dissatisfaction. If you feel this way, it’s time to adopt a different approach to work and life, so that you can be more productive in the long run, and avoid burnout or the onset of mental health issues.

Evolving definitions

A couple of decades ago, a person’s work and home lives were separated quite distinctly. Work happened at office, and personal life started the moment they were out of office premises and office hours. With the changes in our economy and technology, the concept of work-life balance too has evolved. According to an online survey conducted by American Express and market research company Morning Consult this year, more than half of Indian employees are leading blended hybrid lives, with 38% of them attributing it to technology.

Perhaps one of the difficulties in achieving “work-life balance" comes from focusing on the word “balance". It implies that the two worlds must exist on either side, with equal time divided between the two, creating a sense of competition between the two elements.

With the blurring of the lines between our professional and personal lives, it becomes impractical to think of work-life balance as a complete separation between the worlds. Perhaps the resolution to this dilemma lies in approaching it not as a balance but as a "work-life synergy" or “work-life harmony". This approach makes room from for the real-world scenario where career-minded employees are committed to managing both work and personal priorities simultaneously.

After all, what each of us wants is to create joy and meaningful engagement between the interconnected roles, relationships and responsibilities that make up our lives.

Blend it up

Microsoft’s Asia Workplace 2020 Study has revealed that a large number of Gen X and millennial workforce in India value work-life integration more than work-life separation, are open to digital workspaces, and embracing flexi work-styles that “enable them to be mobile professionals with a personalized way of how they work and live".

As more young people enter the workplace, employers need to change their approach to understand that they are looking at how their work fits in with their overall vision for their lifestyle. Promoting a work culture that understands this need for synergy is the first step that employers need to take.

As individuals, the path to this synergy starts with understanding that there is no universal formula for work-life harmony. Every of us will have different life needs at different stages in our life and career. We need to outline our short and long-term goals for our career growth, family life, social needs and personal growth, so that we can plan out our priorities. This is crucial and helps us make the time for the things that matter to us.

Then, it’s also important to figure out how and when we want to use technology to help us achieve these goals. Taking charge of the way we use technology will help us avoid a situation where we feel like we’re at the mercy of these devices.

Constant multi-tasking has downsides and can lead to a buildup of stress, cause anxiety or depression over a period of time. It helps to build in some healthy, relaxing habits into your schedule, such as eating on time, exercising a bit each week, or simply by making time for hobbies or activities that you love to do.

Today, you live in a world full of possibilities—with technology and cultural changes making it possible for us to experience life in a more wholesome way than in any other time in our history. Take some time out to plan your path to work-life synergy, and you will be better equipped to take on the challenges in your path, and will soon be on your way to living a more fulfilled life.

Mind Matters is a weekly column which looks to alleviate the stigma around mental health at work. Neerja Birla is the chairperson and co-founder of Mpower, a movement that aims to affect a positive change in the attitude towards mental health.

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