The Limits of Work-Life Balance

March 11, 2024

For years, work-life balance has been the go-to metaphor for when routines feel unsustainable.

But every metaphor has its limitations, including this one.

In this particular formulation, “work” comes before “life” and elicits the picture of a 50-50 split balanced on a fulcrum. Shift your weight just a hair in the wrong direction and everything comes crashing down. To me, that approach feels exhausting.

As an alternative way of imagining a more sustainable rhythm of life, I like to talk about work-life stability. And for me, the best image of stability is a bridge. A bridge is a solid structure attached to two stable foundations. That’s very different from the balancing act described above.

Semantics aside, I still use the term work-life balance and don’t plan to stop any time soon. It does have its merits. But I think stability and bridge building can help us look at old problems in new ways.

Bridge building can be an exercise in smoothing the transition between the office and home. It can be a way of healing past wounds and defining your vision for a better future. And it can be a way of connecting to others and bridging the empathy gaps that make people feel isolated and alone in their various roles.

When things feel unsustainable, try focusing on stability and connection, and see if that helps.


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