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The New Work-Life Balance

Finding your balance and purpose at work and in life

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In 2024, the lines between work and life are blurrier than ever. Corporate offices try to be more like homes, complete with lounges, snacks, and casual wear. Meanwhile, your home might look increasingly like an office these days, set with a desk and swivel chair (or a stack of paperwork on the corner of your kitchen table).

Imagine this scenario: it’s Friday evening and you get a notification from work. Are you excited to read it, or do you set your phone to “do not disturb” for the weekend? Some believe you’ll never work a day in your life if you’re passionate about your work. But if you love what you do, will you always be working? The new work-life balance is all about defining what works for you based on your own circumstances.

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Work to live, or live to work?

It’s become controversial: some say if you love your job, work-life balance becomes inherent and fluid, but others say strict boundaries are necessary between the two. The only downside to loving your job is that you might work too much, because it might be harder to unplug and disconnect. But if you work to live, you might not always feel passionate about the work you do. Whatever you choose, there are opportunities for self-development and mindfulness.

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What about side hustles?

Dr. Carla Fry, registered psychologist and director of the Vancouver Psychology Centre, recommends that you have a clear end goal in mind when doing side work. Picking up side work on evenings and weekends could lead to burnout in the long term, so you want to be intentional and mindful about it.

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Finding balance in changing times

Work-life balance doesn’t have a static definition. The nature of work and its relationship to the rest of our lives is changing with the times. It used to be that when you clocked out of work for the day, you physically left the workplace and went home.

You worked to pay the bills and save for retirement. But people tend to expect more from their work lives in 2024: a sense of fulfillment and community and an alignment between your work and your personal values.

What constitutes work-life balance will also be affected by your personal circumstances. For example, parents with young kids at home will likely value health benefits and flexible schedules. Meanwhile, someone who’s just starting their career might value workplace culture—and the opportunity to network—more in their journey toward work-life balance.

Different cultures view work differently too. New Zealand ranks high across the globe when it comes to work-life balance. How do they do it? Plenty of paid time off, short commutes, low unemployment levels, and shorter (average) work weeks all play a role.

In Denmark, the city of Copenhagen also scores high for work-life balance. Their approach includes flexible working hours, generous paid parental leave, and a minimum of five weeks paid vacation per year.

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Your road map to work-life balance

Fry says that people want to feel connected, useful, and joyful in both their home life and work life. As metrics of success have changed, so have people’s needs in the workplace.

“In the past, people derived self-esteem from not taking vacations, not taking sick days, and working 80 hours a week,” Fry explains.

But now, according to Fry, people want to feel good about the work they’re doing, while still having enough energy for the things outside of work that make them happy and healthy―things like spending time with friends and family, going to yoga or therapy, or just sitting for 10 minutes without anything on the go.

Though people of all ages are now more curious and interested in work-life balance, Fry says that for people under 30, work-life balance isn’t just nice to have—it’s imperative. In fact, whereas salary and benefits used to be major selling points, work-life balance has become a major factor in making big life decisions, including choosing a career.

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Blurred lines between work life and home life

With the introduction of the BlackBerry in the early 2000s, work life began to spill into home life. Getting work notifications at home became the new normal. Lines have been further blurred by the rise of remote work.

Positive ways that workers and employers can support work-life balance in 2024 include

·         setting up a separate space for work—and avoiding working in your bedroom if possible

·         having a clear end-of-day definition and encouraging logging off fully

·         adopting a right-to-disconnect policy

France and some other EU countries have legislated right-to-work policies, while Canada has been actively studying potential federal legislation. Effective January 2023, Ontario requires employers of more than 25 employees to have written disconnecting-from-work policies.

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The four-day work week and work-life balance

A long list of countries and companies have tested a four-day work week. The results are reported to be overwhelmingly positive. A Canadian four-day work week pilot program showed that the four-day work week offered a 35 percent improvement in work-life balance and a 17 percent reduction of burnout, while also delivering higher productivity and revenue.

This article was originally published in the January 2024 issue of alive magazine.

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