by Jennifer Burns, Toronto Chapter, Academic Division
If I had to describe my relationship with work-life balance on Facebook, I’d say, “It’s complicated.” I’ve struggled with it for a long time, and I’m not alone. Work-life balance has been a concept in organizational development for a generation, but in practice, it has been elusive. Can it be that we’ve spent 30 years trying to solve the wrong problem?
Maybe. The very expression “work-life balance” assumes that work and life are separate, even antagonistic. I’m not sure that this is true, at least not for knowledge workers.
We live in a post-Industrial era. This new age, the Knowledge Age, demands a new model. I believe that knowledge workers should aspire to work-life integration, where work is a healthy and fulfilling part of our daily lives.
Let’s get real. There is no steam whistle signaling the end of another workday in the Knowledge Age. Knowledge is organic, frequently imperfect, and never stops. It is our work and very much a part of our lives. Balance just isn’t realistic in the current environment of rapid economic, social, and technological change. Better to strive for flexibility and resilience, both in ourselves and in our organizations. Yes, there is work that needs to get done, and there are only 24 hours in a day. But we also need to manage our energy, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for that.
If we can blend Work with Life, we will have more interesting, prosperous, and meaningful careers and lives, and our organizations, families, and communities will be better for it. That is a future worth working for.
Jennifer Burns is the President of the Toronto Chapter of SLA. As a Collection Development Manager with Baker & Taylor’s YBP Library Services, she travels extensively for work and has the luggage tags to show for it. She does her best thinking on airplanes. Jennifer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org