Why “Work/Life Balance” Sucks


As a comedian, specificity of language is very important.  Changing one word can turn a joke from “sorta funny” to hilarious.  But words also express their intent, which is why I’ve recently realized how little I like the phrase “work/life balance.”  It suggests two things:

  1. Work is more important than life (it comes first), and
  2. One of the two is bad (you “balance the good with the bad”).

Some companies have tried to address #2 by calling it work/life effectiveness, but work is still first and effectiveness implies an emphasis on productivity, which is fine for my work but not the first word I want to use to describe my life (the word “fun” comes to mind).  So what do I suggest?

Life/Work Synergy

Wait, really?  Yes.  “Synergy” may be a buzzword, and the phrase may sound “new agey,” but it works–it’s specific and speaks to what I want between my life and work.  I want my life and work to come together to produce something greater than the sum of their individual parts.  I want the work I do to be something that excites me and I want to do in it a way that not only enables my personal life, but also enhances it.  We spend 25% of our adult life (before retirement) working; I don’t want that 25% to just be a day-job.

I understand simply changing the phrase “work/life balance” to “life/work synergy” won’t magically make anyone’s situation what they want it to be, but thinking in that context will help.  Once you start looking for ways life and work can build on one another (instead of just looking for how to balance the two), you’ll find creative solutions to improve your circumstances.  And if an entire organization did that?  Well, I think we’d be on to something.

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{ 1 comment… add one }
  • David Cowen February 11, 2011, 8:44 am

    I don’t disagree with the use of “synergy,” but what if you eliminate “work” and just call it “life balance,” of which work is a subset, as is play, family, relationships, sports, etc. Business should be helping people develop themselves from inside out, helping them to well-grounded from within, so that they can do what’s necessary to have balance in their lives. That will have an ROI for the company–better people make better employees. (I’m not implying that their is something wrong with them; we all can grow.)

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