Guest Post from Melissa Heisler, stress reduction expert and author of “From Type A to Type Me”
The concept of work-life balance has only been around for the maybe the last thirty-forty years or so. Work-life balance emerged during this time because more women entered the workforce full-time creating a conflict between roles and responsibilities. Individuals were no longer responsible only for home or only for work. Now they were responsible for both. Adding to this increase in responsibility are also the effects of supposed time-saving technologies like the internet, cellphones, emails and texts. These technologies, instead of making our work days easier and more efficient, tend to bind us to our work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.
The result is we feel:
- Overwhelmed and feel we have no ability to lessen our responsibilities.
- Victimized by a lack of power to affect our positions, departments or companies.
- Powerless to put our personal or family needs above the demands of our jobs.
- Like a prisoner to our cellphone, our emails, and our clients.
- Trapped, exhausted, and frustrated.
- The need to just suck it up and plow forward.
However the stress, tiredness, and frustration we are experiencing are not due to lack of balance between work and life. Yes, the lack of balance between work and life are symptoms of our stress, but they are not the cause. I believe the true problem causing our stress is disempowerment.
Perhaps as a working mother, you are torn between going to your to your child’s dance recital but feel you need to stay late at work. The problem is feeling unable to choose what you truly value.
When your phone, email, and text messages occupy every second of the day making you feel haggard and weary, the problem is not inefficiency but the inability to put one’s own needs above the din of technology.When work feels like a prison, a must do, a drudging responsibility instead of a desire and a joy, the problem is not lack of passion. The problem is feeling powerless to use our own power to make our work joyful.
The concept of work-life balance assumes you are something different at work than at home. Many of my clients are unhappy with their work. They feel trapped. They feel stuck. They feel their job is sucking the life out of them. They put up with 40 to 60 hours of work for the few meager hours a week where they can live the life they love. I believe these feelings are due to a perception that they need to become something different at work. They feel they need to check their personalities, wants, and needs at the company door. And this is what many people do. They are one person at home and then when they enter the workplace they stuff that person into the bottom drawer of their desk with their lunch and their purse until the end of the day. The key to happiness is not ensuring that we have a few hours a week where we do the things we enjoy, but to begin claiming that same joy wherever we are. Empowerment begins by uncovering and embracing our unique Type Me which functions both at work and at home.