Work-Life Balance or Work-Life Harmony?

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Everyone talks about maintaining a work-life balance.

But is it really a balance that we want? Is “balance” the right word?

Think about it. Balancing means equalising. It implies trading off one thing for another. When we balance, we compensate. We let go of something in favour of something else, and vice versa.


The Balancing Act:

Maybe an example will give a little more clarity. You get off your work a little early so that you can attend a sports event your niece is participating in. The work may or may not have been done the way you would like but you trade it off a bit to balance this personal commitment. That’s work-life balance.

Trying to achieve work-life balance is not wrong in itself, but it can be inconvenient and overwhelming at times. What if we tried to achieve work-life harmony?


In musical parlance, harmonizing a song implies making a brilliant piece of music out of seemingly incompatible tunes. In isolation, the song would sound incomplete, and the tunes random. But together, in harmony, it becomes music.


What the Big Shots Have to Say:

In an interview cited in this article, Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft talks about work-life harmony. He says, “I used to always think that you need to find that balance between what’s considered relaxing versus what is working…What I’m trying to do is harmonize what I deeply care about, my deep interests, with my work.”

In another interview cited in the same article, Jeff Bezos, says in a similar vein, reflecting on the “circle” we talked about earlier, “If I am happy at work, I am better at home — a better husband and better father. And if I am happy at home, I come into work more energized — a better employee and a better colleague.”



So, What Exactly is Work-Life Harmony All About?  :

Finding work-life harmony is more about attitude. An attitude to work which doesn’t see it as “work” but rather as an activity which you deeply care about and something that helps you nurture your interests. In other words, an attitude which sees “work” as an energy giving activity, rather than a draining one. An attitude which doesn’t see personal life as a set of “commitments” but rather something that nurtures your emotional and psychological well-being.

To re-frame it, we can stop looking for “quality” time to spend with the family to “balance” work commitments. Instead, we “harmonise” the two. For example, you might think you need to take a vacation to give time to your child, to balance the time you lose out with them when you are working. And later, you work overtime to balance out that long vacation. To harmonise, you can actually talk to and listen to what your kid is saying on your way to dropping them to school in morning instead of considering the commute as a chore. After all, any time could be a quality time. The interaction leads to a good mood, leading to a good day at work, where you see your work as something that allows you to learn and grow,  and you go home with a smile, leading to a happy evening. Kids are much happier at an emotionally nurturing home than an emotionally stormy vacation.

Of course, there are some personal and professional events which are unavoidable. You have to “balance” at times, with no option to harmonise. But that doesn’t mean you have to discard the idea of harmony altogether. We can still develop an attitude, and when we have the attitude, we can find a way. We can try.

An attitude about “balancing” work and life might lead to positive experiences in one area and negative experiences in another. An attitude about establishing harmony is about happiness and fulfillment in one area leading to happiness and fulfillment in the other, in a cycle. The circle goes on. It’s like setting your life to music.