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Work time is life time – why we do not need work–life balance

Work–life balance has become a trendy phrase in recent years. And you still read and hear about it everywhere – about the balance between life and work. Employees demand it, employers promise it, trade unions defend it and media publicize it. This is a plea against this unspeakable word, which is based on a fundamentally nonsensical understanding of our lives

Perceiving time

Why does the time we associate with work-related things goes by so much slower than that associated with our free time? People have different perceptions of time in different situations as well as in different stages of life. Our sense of time is not objective, but rather depends largely on the subjective and emotional evaluation of a situation. Moments or periods of time that are particularly eventful or filled with strong positive emotions pass by quickly. If someone asks us what our holiday was like, the answer is often: “Nice, but way too short.”

But what does that mean in relation to our working life? Conversely, if the majority of people feel that time at work is much slower than in other places or in other situations, it means that most people consider the work they do every day boring or associate it with a very negative feeling.

Work–life balance as an answer?

For many, the answer to this dilemma is: work–life balance.
But what does a reasonable work–life balance actually look like? We divide our lives into two areas of life. A person with a healthy work–life balance can manage these two areas, but is that really a good solution?

Work–life balance also implies that there must be a balance between two things that face each other but do not belong together: the beautiful life and the evil work. To endure the work, it has to be kept in check, it has to be in balance – yes, to what? To life? Is not work part of life? Doesn’t it belong to it? But what kind of life is it if the work we spend so much time on is not a part of it? Do working hours not count as life time? Why do we strive for balance – rather than a good life in which everything is right?

In an article on this work–life schizophrenia, philosopher and economist Philip Kovce explains the separation of free time and work as a widespread disease. This dichotomy devaluates work and thus ourselves. We speak about work that does not belong to life and is therefore not counted as life time. This makes our beautiful lives shorter and shorter, and the work we do as something negative.

“Delete the terms ‘work time’ and ‘free time’ from your vocabulary, and replace them with ‘life time’ and ask yourself: does what I’m doing make sense?” Götz Werner

Work time is life time!

We place high demands on our private lives. We plan evening activities, weekend trips, vacations. We want to use and enjoy our “free” time well. Why don’t we make the same demands in our professional life? Why don’t we demand good work just as vehemently? We should aim for jobs that fit our lives, in our lives! Which make them complete, not halved. Jobs in which we can make things happen, that pull us in, where we are valued.

In the times of New Work and digitization, we have a great opportunity to do just that: to transform the world of work for and with people. We can and must ask ourselves: How do we want to live? How do we want to work? This can lead us to a more self-determined and flexible working world.

Let’s take the chance! It’s about our life time!

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