Is work life balance a myth?

A new book argues that work life balance is a myth and that what we need is the work life blend.

 

Do you balance or blend? A new book claims that work life balance is ‘a myth’ because it suggests that work and life are completely different from each other when, for many, they are one and the same thing.

Balance is B.S. by wellness entrepreneur Tamara Loehr argues that work life blend is a better way to do things. She says work life balance is impossible and that trying to pursue it leads to guilt and compromises career ambitions, the latter mainly because of the curtailing of promotion prospects that tends to come from working part time. “The reality is, 100% investment in every area all the time isn’t possible. It’s never going to happen, and when we try it and fail we just feel guilty,” she writes.

It is sexist too, she says, because the search for balance is usually something that is spoken of in terms of women, similar to the idea of ‘having it all’. “I think women have been conditioned to feel ashamed of loving work,” states Loehr. She adds that the concept of work life balance means women often continue to do all the home side of things rather than sharing them with their partner, if they have one.

For Loehr work is part of life, not an opposite. That, she says, is part of the entrepreneurial mindset, but her book sets out to apply this approach to work generally. Indeed, there is a lot of talk nowadays about how the entrepreneurial mindset is going to be important for all of us in the future as we adapt to a world of constant disruption.

An integrated life

For Loehr blending means, for instance, taking her kids on work trips and having meetings in cafes with her kids present. It is also about creating a cadre of ‘Blenders’ to push for wider change.

Whether this is possible for all types of job is another issue, but Loehr argues her case fervently. The book is part motivational manual and part coaching guide. It talks, for instance, about the importance of understanding your values and letting these drive what you do and how you see yourself. Loehr is all about integration of all parts of your life and says greater self awareness, understanding what you want and what makes you happy, is crucial.

She states that her book is for “ambitious, rising women” and that “there are no part-time jobs for C-level executives” which seems to be a bit behind the times as the movement for a four-day week gathers pace. It advises women to share the concept of the blend with their manager and make the case for it. No doubt it could work in some jobs to some degree or other, remote working being a case in point. It clearly works for Loehr, but some people prefer not to blend, to have some switch-off time so they can fully concentrate on either work or family. Indeed she talks at one point about sitting in the car across the street from her house for a few minutes when she gets home so she can transition from work to family life.

Where the book makes important points is about our expectations of motherhood and it counsels not using family as an excuse not to pursue career goals, although it assumes that career is one of the primary drivers of readers’ lives, that they are all more or less like her. Loehr is fortunate, though – and she admits it – that she has a supportive partner who is a stay-at-home dad.

There is also something refreshing about her exhortation at the end of the book to demand a different way of working from the traditional one that excludes the idea that workers have children. She, with her Blenders, is keen to be on the frontline in the charge for change. While it may not be possible for everyone, she urges a policy of no compromise: “Leave any situation that brings you down. Leave any situation where the people in power don’t appreciate that blending is the most productive way to work and the best way to build culture. Leave any situation where your superiors or colleagues seek control and alienate you.”

*Balance is B.S.: how to have a work. life. blend.  by Tamara Loehr is published by Wiley.



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