Career Woman

Work life balance is a myth: it’s time to realise it


This guide outlines the reasons that work life balance is a myth and we should stop chasing the unrealistic dream.

“Work life balance” has been a hot corporate topic for some time. Promulgated widely by the ASX Top 200 listed companies as a key plank to their employer of choice status, big business would have us believe that everyone can and should chase perfect equilibrium between their personal and professional selves. And to prove it (they say) – just look at how our women leaders manage the juggle!

With COVID-19 rapidly forcing us to adapt to a new working paradigm, socially isolated with our kids well and truly in tow, surely now is the time for big business to realise that work life balance is a myth and always has been a myth?

The term work life balance was coined in England in the late 1970s and by the mid-1980’s had became part of the corporate lexicon to describe the balance between someone’s work and personal life. But really, what does the term even mean? Each time I hear the phrase work life balance I have a mental image of a see-saw with some poor frazzled soul stranded in the middle desperately trying to shift their weight to achieve the perfect equilibrium, with the see-saw settled in an unshakable horizontal line. Because work life balance is a myth, not a reality.

Why work life balance is a myth

Life does not work that way… Particularly now

You work and you love it. You have a family and you love them. You have community, spiritual, volunteering and lifestyle interests. You love to do lots of things. Often your work crosses over into home or you take your work with you on the go while you run around after your kids in your other (unpaid) role of Uber driver. No-one you know spends exactly equal amounts of time, joy or endeavour on their work as they do on the other many elements of their life. Their work is simply a part of their life. A life that is a crazy mishmash, hodgepodge concoction of all of the various things we do each day. Do all of these elements need to balance? No. How can they possibly?

So, let’s take this opportunity COVID-19 has offered – a giant global ‘pause’ where work life balance has been completely thrown out the window – to change the dialogue and to rewrite the corporate policies.

It’s time to stop chasing the work life balance myth. Here’s how:

  1. Lose the lingo — stop promoting your organisation as the pinnacle of Work-Life balance. Demonstrate to your people that you understand that everything they do can not be neatly characterised as ‘work’ or ‘life’. It’s all just part of life.
  2. Embrace ‘integration’ and give your people permission (and your trust) to make good decisions to spend their time where it is most needed at any given time — be that on the tools, with their family, pursuing personal development, or simply spending time on the other, multi-faceted elements of their life.
  3. Educate your people to have a good understanding of their values – where do they want, and where do they need, to best spend their time? Allow your people to focus on what is most important at any given time and allocate the right amount of time to each element.
  4. Create a working environment where your people are encouraged to be flexible and fluid. Each day will have a different focus, and your people need to have the confidence that you will back their decision to change direction on the fly depending on what is most pressing.

So to big business – please stop telling us how great our Work Life balance will be working for you. Please stop asking your ‘top successful women’ to share how they have achieved Work Life balance. Please stop rolling out your token young dads to talk about how they now work home one day a week to be with their kids. You are not fooling anyone. It’s time to stop chasing Work Life balance — it’s a myth.

Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Me First, by Kate Christie. Copyright (c) 2020 by John Wiley & Sons Australia, LTD. All rights reserved.

About Kate Christie

Kate Christie is a time management specialist, best selling author, global speaker and the founder and CEO of Time Stylers. For more information about Kate go to

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