When we talk about work-life balance, we are talking above all about the balance between the time to devote to work and those to devote to private life and family.
There is one thing, however, which many do not talk about: the two spheres, the work and the private one, must first find an internal balance, otherwise it will be difficult to reconcile them. Curated by Dario Madeddu, Asnor Orientator.
What is Work Life Balance
“Hi Dario, my name is Federica, I am a single mom and I would like to understand how to move in the world of work to find a position that allows me to work, support my son and be able to dedicate the evening to him at the same time. In the morning my parents help me, next year he will enter kindergarten, but I feel I want to dedicate a part of my day to him and to his growth. I don’t want to have to work and that’s it and then go back and put him to bed. Can you give me a hand?”.
I admit, before this request that came to me via e-mail from Federica, I had dedicated my guidance interventions above all to making people effective at work, to helping others understand how to best express themselves in their work. Managing the time devoted to work effectively and efficiently is a passion that I train on myself every day. Teaching it to others is a privilege I have as an orientator. Federica’s problem, however, was different.
Effectively managing the time to devote to one’s work and managing the time to devote to one’s private life in the same way is not an orientation problem, but there are many orientation problems and I’ll explain why. The first orientation problem, in a similar situation, concerns work. The first dimension I tried to investigate was precisely this . If we fail to be satisfied and happy with the work we do, we will never be able to reconcile private life with work.
This statement is apparently trivial, but it contains the core of the problem. To reconcile two spheres of our life, work and private life, those two spheres, taken individually, must each have their own internal balance. Otherwise, it will happen that one will make up for the other’s shortcomings by becoming a refuge. If my work and my career did not satisfy me, I could seek satisfactions in my private life that I cannot find elsewhere.
In this way I will entrust all my expectations to private life and there I will seek fulfillment, neglecting the one that could correctly come from my professional life. Provided, however, that the work is only unsatisfactory. If, on the other hand, my job generates stress and anxiety in me, so much so as to lead me to a burnout, I risk finding myself with two fundamental spheres of my life which, rather than reconcile, risk crumbling simultaneously and in a concatenated way.
The problem also works the other way around. This is why we can speak of the reconciliation of work and private life only if the two spheres have their own internal balance.
The increase in voluntary resignation: the great resignation
Too much work generates severe stress, irritability, sleep-wake disorders, poor concentration, the feeling of lack of time to do anything and relationship difficulties. In essence, working too hard means working well and effectively. Indeed, it means slowly ruining the working and private spheres. On the contrary, serious problems in the private sphere can spill over into professional life and disturb it to the point of making it fail.
The phenomenon of increase in voluntary resignations that is called “the great resignation” and which sees millions of people around the world abandon their jobs to find something else that allows them to live more peacefully in the workplace and in the private sphere, is not a a problem that must be classified under the various social changes that COVID-19 has brought about. It is a phenomenon that has its foundations in the changes that have taken place in the world of work today and in the society we live in today. It is a social problem that needs to be addressed very seriously. Behind it carries the meaning of work and the very meaning of our life.
Some aspects of our life find fulfillment in work. I am referring to the desire for self-fulfillment and personal growth, for example. It is absolutely true, however, that even private life can and must be a sphere that allows us to self-fulfillment and personal growth.
It goes without saying, however, that choosing not to work to devote only to the family or choosing to work so intensely as to have almost no private life, are personal choices that in any case must give us happiness. And when it comes to choices, the problem is in fact an orientation problem. The choice must never bring with it a defeat, neither personal nor professional. A solved orientation problem does not admit a solution of this type: I focus only on private life because my work does not satisfy me and I am happy to have it in order to earn what I need to live. A resolved orientational problem does not even admit a choice with inverted factors.
The choice that is the result of a resolved orientation problem is a happy choice, that is, a choice that satisfies us from all points of view. Otherwise, it will become a problem again. Being satisfied does not mean choosing happily. Indeed, it is exactly the opposite. It means only and exclusively withdrawing temporarily into a comfort zone from which, sooner or later, to be truly happy, we want to get out.
The search for a balance between work and private life
Reviewing one’s career priorities, even looking for jobs that can better combine work with free time, requires work that is well-set on our choices and that an counselor can help us carry out. Furthermore, the shorter working week, which some countries have already adopted, can be a solution in some cases, but it is not the panacea for the work life balance. Having more time can help. However, you must first choose how to feel good at work and in private life and then use that extra time in the best way. Otherwise, we will only have more time, but we will not have found the balance.
To return to Federica, the work that I had to set up with her, first of all addressed these deeper aspects, precisely because the work life balance is not just a matter of time. It’s not just a matter of shorter workweeks. It may appear so, but in reality it starts from something deeper. It is there that a counselor must first investigate. Only if the counselor finds the two spheres truly resolved, then he can devote himself to training his student / client on how to better manage time or help him verify which contractual forms he can choose to allow him better conciliation times.