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Goodbye work-life balance, hello life-work balance

Young woman with dreadlocks sitting at wooden table on beach and working on laptop

We all know the pandemic has forever changed the way we work. Following the great, involuntary experiment that was remote working, companies and employees all over the world realised a business can actually run without everyone being stuck behind their desks for eight hours a day, five days a week.

Recent stats show that, as of August 2021, 4.3-million Americans had quit their jobs. A similar thing is happening in the UK, with recruiters everywhere fretting to fill myriad vacancies. The reasons behind this shift? People have not only adapted to remote working, they actually enjoy it. They’ve found they can still do their jobs, while enjoying the flexibility and freedom it provides.

Need to do some grocery shopping? Now you can go during your lunch break instead of wasting time on the weekend. Too tired to go to gym after a full day at work? Now you can workout around your other tasks. And let’s not even start on the revelation such flexibility provides parents of school-going children.

What all of this means is that work-life balance is being replaced by life-work balance. And about time, too. The traditional 9-5 working model is not only outdated—we have the internet now, people—it’s broken; for most, the commute, the routine, the every day sameness simply deadens the soul.

How the pandemic changed the meaning of work

The pandemic brought our attitudes on life into sharp perspective. It knocked us out of our contented routines and reminded us of the unpredictability and vulnerability of our existence.

Given the time and space, many of us contemplated and revaluated our lives—am I really doing what I want to do? Do I have to stay in this job? Why give all those hours of my life every week for a company that doesn’t care about me?

People were awakened to the fact that it actually doesn’t have to be this way. Finding meaning in work, and enjoying better wellbeing, became more important than how much you were getting paid for it.

The result? Those employees who demanded a return to pre-pandemic working ways saw people leaving in droves. And in job interviews now, the first thing a candidate asks is not, “How much will I get paid?” it’s, “Do you offer flexible working?” If the answer is no, the candidate has all the power to say no thank you, because there are just many other offers out there at the moment.

Woman with a laptop by the sea.
Sharon’s fantasy of working in her pyjama pants while simultaneously perched on a boulder overlooking the sea was quickly thwarted by the weird dude lurking around taking pictures of her.

Push back at your peril

Despite all the evidence that remote working works and makes people happier, some business owners remain wary of it. They claim it’s a threat to company culture. But you know what’s a real threat to company culture? Having no employees because nobody wants to work for you.

And while it’s true that remote working has its challenges, the benefits of adapting to and finding solutions to them are far more beneficial than just scrapping the whole thing. One of the better concepts around at the moment is the virtual office, which you can learn more about on this podcast with Shay O’Carroll, co-founder of PixelMax.

There is also a solid case for asking your team to be in the office once or twice a week, or to physically attend certain important meetings, or have a monthly get together. Most employees are open to this and will even enjoy the change of scenery and engagement.

Let’s remember that co-workers are not family

Another trending ‘concern’ about remote working is that it can cause loneliness. And while this might be true for some, the majority of us acknowledge that co-workers, while they might be friends, are not family. Work is not there to provide for all the needs of our emotional wellbeing.

Anyway, the freedom that remote working provides has proven to make employees happier, and thus more productive. They have more time for their family, to perform chores and pursue hobbies and other interests outside of work. In short, people’s lives are now more meaningful.

It’s time to acknowledge that pre-pandemic, work-life balance might not have been possible for everyone; post-pandemic, however, life-work balance certainly is.

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