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A new kind of predator

A work-life balance may be pampering the individual but is it strangling society?

The idea of a ‘work-life balance’ is, once again, twaddle. Just as it was before the eighties. Can you imagine using the phrase work-life balance in the seventies on say, miners, health workers or a door-to-door salesman?

Back in the day, even before the seventies, when our oldest relatives either farmed or hunted, the idea that you might not apply yourself to one of these functions because it might affect your work-life balance was basically a decision to drop dead.

If you didn’t work, if you didn’t contribute to the greater human good; you would endanger the survival of the wider tribe. You’d be cast out and probably eaten by a woolly mammoth. Work-life balance wasn’t a thing back then.

The term work-life balance was created in the eighties and emerged as technology theoretically freed up time. Mammoths, of course, had become extinct so there was less risk of being eaten by one.

In the nineties, the global supply of plenty (food, fuel, healthcare and technology) caused generations, who’d known no different, from believing work-life balance was an entitlement.

It isn’t! It’s a deadly seductive siren destroying many people’s lives, a substitute for otherwise capable people not having purpose and meaning in their working lives. Work being defined as how we contribute to society and the greater human good.

And the scariest thing is, to achieve their work-life balance, people are now willing to steal from one another, kill one another and destroy our planet and its environment.

Let’s examine the facts. Let’s take the work and business environment where a work-life balance has become the currency used for negotiation. Let’s look at the chain of events that’s taking place in most corporations and businesses.

Someone applies for a role. They’ll have expectations in terms of salary, benefits, the tasks they’ll fulfil, the ladder they can climb and working hours - their work-life balance. These days these are the things uppermost in their mind when they’re considering a role.

Rarely, will the value they can bring to the wider tribe be top of mind. Rarely does the employment negotiation start with what difference could they make to the group followed by what sacrifices will they make to achieve this. Lastly, as a consequence of that, what payment should they receive in exchange.

So, the corporation or business hires them on their terms and then tries to make the sums add up. It seeks to ensure its profit margin is maintained. And guess what? It doesn’t add up because the new tribe member does not have the well-being of the tribe in mind as a priority. They have their entitlement to a work-life balance as a priority.

So, the corporation or business then squeezes its suppliers who in turn squeeze their business partners. All of whom have also employed people seeking similar work-life balances.

This leads to these businesses not giving too much consideration as to where they get their resources because they simply can’t afford to. This leads to, let’s say, a total disregard for the environments from which we extract lithium. The same thing happens with oil, wood, slave labour and genetically modified crops and boom you’ve got global disaster. All because work-life balance was the thing we wanted most. In fact, we feel entitled to it.

And why not? We’re living in the new millennium, and we’ve been promised a work-life balance. These are in many ways’ times of plenty, and since the nineties, we’ve all been told by politicians, life coaches, self-help books, gurus, celebrities and colleagues that we’re entitled to this work-life balance. There are no woolly mammoths out there to remind us of the old days either.

The problem is that for some time, the siren, called work-life balance, has created an ever-decreasing circle. We’re guilty of contributing less than we’ve been taking. So, now there are, in fact, new woolly mammoths out there.

The biggest and hairiest have new names: decreasing resources, a damaged climate, political unrest and shrinking economies.

The sharpest and cleverest tribes realise this. They’ve figured out that contribution and recompense must correlate. They’ve twigged that individuals focused only on their own specific form of work-life balance are irrelevant concerning the welfare of the wider tribe.

They’ve figured out that it’s a bit like being back in the seventies when using the phrase work life balance meant you were talking twaddle. An age when if you didn’t ensure your contribution was greater than what you took, when you knew the woolly mammoths would be just around the corner.

“The pampering of the modern mind has resulted in a population that feels deserving of something without earning that something, a population that feels that have a right to something without sacrificing for it. People declare themselves experts, entrepreneurs, inventors, innovators, mavericks, and coaches without any real-life experience. And they do this not because they actually think they are greater than everybody else; they do it because they feel that they need to be great to be accepted in a world that broadcasts only the extraordinary.” – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k, Mark Manson.

Author: Stephen Page

25th September 2019



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Page & Page and Partners

+44 (0)20 8617 8250

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