In this age of technology and devices, it seems the thought of work-life balance is going to the wayside, and it’s shifting to the idea of work-life blend. So, what’s the difference between work-life balance and work-life blend? UnityPoint Health Psychiatrist Cornelius Gucfa, MD, differentiates the two concepts and offers his advice on five ways to achieve a more ideal work-life blend to make you a happier, more fulfilled person.
Work-Life Blend vs. Work-Life Balance
The balance and blend definitions can be confusing, but Dr. Gucfa says work-life balance is an older, more traditional concept.
“It suggests our work lives and our home lives are separate and compartmentalized,” Dr. Gucfa says. “It assumes a separation between work and life and proposes that people should have them in equal proportions. Work-life balance is a concept including the proper prioritization between work and lifestyle, keeping work separate from home and vice versa.”
On the other hand, Dr. Gucfa says work-life blend is a newer concept, more in touch with modern times. He says this evolution was spurred by technology, which brings home to work and work to home. Since technology is everywhere, it’s difficult to separate personal and professional lives.
“Work-life blend suggests a mixing together of different facets of our lives. We don’t need to separate one from the other, rather we try to integrate all facets of our lives, looking for the right blend to suit the individual. Blending, not balancing, is more realistic in our current world,” Dr. Gucfa says.
Tips for Achieving Work-Life Blend
Dr. Gucfa says everyone has different needs, so your work-life blend might be completely different than your neighbors’. However, he identifies these five suggestions to help you achieve an ideal mix.
- Identify schedule flexibility. Take advantage of the flexibility your company offers, which could include working less hours in the summer, taking longer lunch breaks for exercise opportunities or working from home. Dr. Gucfa says there are three providers in his office, all who have different weekly schedules based on their needs. One provider arranges her schedule around her young kids, another has both shorter and longer days and Dr. Gucfa has a short Friday each week. He says this flexibility allows each provider to achieve a better work-life blend.
- Keep an open dialog. Managers and employees should feel free and uninhibited to discuss problems and issues that come up in the workplace. This often increases employee satisfaction. An unhappy work life is naturally going to spill over into home life and vice versa. Managers should try to be flexible and open minded, making it a point to regularly ask staff how they feel about the work they do and how to improve the work environment.
- Use vacation time. It’s important to schedule and plan time off. Everyone needs time to recharge and decompress from job stress. When you come back refreshed and rejuvenated, you will be happier, more productive and better at work. Dr. Gucfa admits this is something he’s always struggled with. But, he often reminds himself that work will always be there, it never really goes away.
- Focus on well-being. It’s important to blend healthy habits into your lifestyle. Computers, cell phones, internet, fast food restaurants, automobiles, microwaves—all of these things have added convenience but also made us sedentary. Exercise increases our blood flow, gives us energy, increases our metabolism and helps us sleep better. It’s easy to go out to lunch and order unhealthy food, but Dr. Gucfa says to remember that food fuels our brain. He also suggests keeping family meals a technology and work-free zone. Also, he reminds everyone to go to the doctor when needed, participate in fulfilling activities and avoid unnecessary stress in order to create an ideal work-life blend.
- Update and reevaluate often. Your work-life blend is constantly changing and frequently needs to be updated or reevaluated based on what’s currently happening in your life. Dr. Gucfa says there is no across the board work-life allocation that works for every single person. Make sure you revisit your work-life blend often to identify changes and shift when it’s appropriate for you.
Am I a Workaholic?
Dr. Gucfa says younger workers are more focused on finding a work-life blend than older employees, who might be so-called “workaholics” and work more hours because it was a historical expectation.
“Work is important, but family is paramount. Supporting our kids, eating together as a family unit, vacations and having experiences together are the positive memories that have a lasting effect. Our kids and spouses need us to be there for them,” Dr. Gucfa says.
He answers these common questions about workaholics.
What are Signs You’re Working Too Much?
You might be working too much, if you’re working to avoid your family, your marriage or other relationships. When work takes an exclusive priority to everything else, that’s the more extreme end of the spectrum where it becomes a problem. If you are missing your daughter’s dance recital or your son’s soccer game, or forgetting your anniversary because of work, these are all signs that things have become problematic.
What Can Working Too Much Do to Your Health and Personal Life?
Working too much can put important personal relationships at risk. If all you’re doing is working, it leaves little time for exercise or eating healthy, assuming you are eating out a lot, or participating in activities that bring joy and pleasure to life. Stress caused from working too much can negatively affect health and can exacerbate pain, including headaches, upset stomach, anxiety and depression among other things.
Why Do You Think It’s Easy for People to Spend Too Much Time at Work?
I think work can represent compulsive behavior for some people. Others might really like what they are doing and get overly involved in their work. Some might use work as a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with other negative aspects of their lives, like relationship problems, loneliness, being a parent, etc.
What Does Working Too Much Do to Your Mental Health?
What is the purpose for work? For most, it is to provide a means to live and a means to do the things we really enjoy doing – art, sports, vacation, exercise. Working too much keeps us from hobbies, activities or things we enjoy doing in leisure time. This can affect our overall wellbeing and increase our anxiety.