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Work, Life & Engagement Blog

Work, Life & Engagement Blog

Date: Jun 2016

People are often talking about fitness - physical fitness, financial fitness, even mental fitness, but we rarely talk about work/life fitness. If you are visiting our website it is likely that you've heard the term "work/life balance," but does having work/life balance mean you are work/life fit? 

The notion of balance is often misleading; the term indicates that balance is attainable and if you obtain it, you will be happy or satisfied with both your work and your life - almost as if it's a mathematical problem that can be solved. But this is not always the case. Living in a strict balance, be it a balance of time or a balance of effort, can be prohibitive when your personal life demands increase or when your professional demands increase. This is why fitness is a more contemporary metaphor than balance. 

Fitness implies sprinting and recovery, and hence the flexibility to shift your focus where it needs to be at any given point. Perhaps you are pushing hard to accomplish a project at work or meet an enormous deadline; doing so will likely impede on your personal life because you allow it to. In the same regard, when personal challenges demand our time and attention, it likely impacts the ability to be fully focused at work. You might find yourself accomplishing personal to-do items while at work, or needing to take time off to focus more seriously on family needs or an upcoming event. The point is that balance is never static. More often than not, we are actively manipulating our time and energy to accomplish pressing priorities. 

The metaphor of fitness can be empowering because it encourages a personalized and flexible approach to managing our priorities, our time, and our energy. Knowing and acknowledging that we choose to spend more effort in a particular area of our lives at a given point can help us avoid burnout, so long as we plan a recovery from the sprint. 

Your work/life fit is personal, and it varies according to your life stage. Are you feeling fit or do you need to make changes? Thinking ahead about upcoming projects or personal life events can help you plan your fitness and manage your energy appropriately. The Johns Hopkins Work-Life Pledge can help you make daily choices in support of a better fit for you.

The Huffington Post recently featured some of my thoughts about how to be a great employee while you're on vacation. While it may seem difficult to keep your work moving forward while you take time off, you'll likely be a better employee when you return. In the article, I suggest ways to prepare work for your vacation, plan your reentry into work, and make use of the time off to reset and restore.