Work-Life Balance - photo by Barney Moss

The New Normal – Work/Life Balance Paradigm Shift

I’ve talked before about “actual” and “ideal” selves, and my theory about how often a person’s “virtual” self tends to align more with their ideal self rather than the actual one… but where does that leave our “work” and “home” selves? How do they align?

It’s time to talk about an oft-dreaded corporate buzzword, folks: WORK-LIFE BALANCE.

For those of you living under a rock (or perhaps those for whom it is an actual THING rather than an idea), work-life balance is the concept that there must be a balance between time and energy devoted to work and the time and energy devoted to everything else that a person deems to be important. Finding this balance can significantly reduce stress and increase enjoyment and satisfaction with work and with the rest of your life. This balance could be equated to Freud’s Ego that acts as the middle ground for our work (SuperEgo) and life (ID) paradoxes, but I digress.

This struggle for balance is REAL, and the organizational trend continues to evolve. Many employers (ahem… the great ones) are beginning to recognize that work-life balance is important to the success of their employees, and is therefore critical to the success of the organization. Many employers are offering employees more options to accommodate their lifestyles and family needs by offering flexible work schedules and unlimited PTO (paid time off).

Flexibility is becoming easier as more organizations become digitally advanced and WiFi connectivity grows – it’s easier for employees to work from any environment via their laptops, smartphones and tablets, which could mean answering emails on the way to a soccer game or finishing a report from the dining room table after the kids head to bed. This ability to work as needed helps alleviate the stress of ongoing projects and impending deadlines while allowing opportunities to engage in family and recreational activities. Also, as globalization continues, the necessity to be available at any hour is growing. For instance, social marketers working for global organizations often find that much of their audience is based in other time zones, requiring attentiveness at what would traditionally be considered “odd” hours.

BUT (and it’s a big one), we still need to make sure that we, as flexible-yet-devoted employees, are not allowing our work to cannibalize our precious family-and-friend time. Finding this balance – where we can completely take one hat off and put the other on – is the key to making the whole thing work.

A Forbes article called this paradigm shift “The New Normal.” The article implies that work-life balance should be viewed as a process, not an end-result, which indicates that in the future lines between work and the rest of our lives will continue to be blurred as we live that balance. The result of this paradigm shift will probably be a merging of the two versions of ourselves – “work” self and “home” self. As marketers, we need to recognize that there may no longer be separate work and home identities for consumers as well – which impacts us in two significant ways. Regardless of whether we market B2B or B2C, our audience will be consuming around the clock and in more spaces, which means we have the opportunity to reach them in new and different ways. It also means that products and services that can be marketed as helping to facilitate that work-life balance will see success.

It’s possible that living a life where work and everything else are balanced will bring us closer to our ideal selves because we’ll have higher self-esteem and more satisfaction as a result of greater success at work and at home. As I mentioned above, it will likely change our consumption
behaviors because of those blurred lines between work and home, and often home will become our place of work. As an interesting aside, this balance could bring together Western and Eastern perspectives — independent achievements would still be valued and sought after, which is a Western aspiration, but identity may also be determined by our placement within our work and social constructs, which is an Eastern perspective.

There are other societal effects of this balance as well. There is the potential for a considerable positive impact on the environment as more people work flexible hours and telecommute, which would change commute times, lessen pollution, and reduce transportation costs. It’s also possible that this work-life balance will result in improved overall health because the flexibility allows for more time to exercise, play sports, hike with the family, etc, and makes it easier to see the doctor, dentist or mental health professional.

Here are a few interesting reads if you’d like to learn more about work-life balance:

How do you balance work and life? And how do you plan to adjust your marketing to take advantage of this new paradigm shift?

*Featured photo by Barney Moss.


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