3 New Insights on Work-Life Balance

How can you balance “work” with the rest of “life?”

It is a tricky question—it can be difficult to decide what we really mean by balance.

There are actually 5 different ways people tend to think about it.


Then perhaps the best first step is to understand how ‘work’ and ‘life’ really influence our happiness.

In this article, we discuss 3 insights from recent research.




1. Two different types of balance

There are two basic ways that “work” and “life” can influence one another.



Aspects of one area can damage, impede, or prevent desired outcomes in the other.

For example, a demanding work schedule might prevent employees from engaging in desired activities outside of work.

Or on the other hand, for example, employees that are too focused on non-work things might be distracted at work and make more mistakes or be less productive.



Aspects of one area can improve, encourage, or cause desired outcomes in the other.

For example, a workplace that encourages some amount of socializing, hobbies, or outside interests might help employees to discover new relationships or activities.

On the other hand, for example, activities outside of work can help people to “recharge” and thus be more focused and productive at work.


Conflict and facilitation are not the same thing.

They can form a vicious cycle, but for the most part people experience them somewhat independently.

This means that you have options.

If conflicts can’t be changed, you can still look for methods of facilitation. If work can’t or won’t facilitate, you can still look for methods to reduce conflict.


2. Two different types of “life”

What is “life” outside of work?

It means different things to different people, but we can break it down into two main categories:

  • Spending time with family
  • Leisure activities


Family time and leisure activities aren’t exactly the same thing.

In fact, spending time with family is almost universally regarded as positive and beneficial, but leisure activities seem to be underappreciated.

Leisure activities have been shown to facilitate work and family.

But in turn, leisure activities receive some of the most conflict from work and family, which then significantly reduces happiness. This seems to be an area where many people could improve.


3. Very little change over time

Work-life balance doesn’t seem to change that much.

When researchers track people over time, things mostly stay the same.


Perhaps this shouldn’t be too surprising.

People don’t really change their lifestyle all that often.


But this might also be a really good thing. It suggests that things often can stay the same.

If you find the balance that really makes you happy, you will probably be able to keep it.




Image credits: Ian Burt, Quinn Dombrowski

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