People sometimes talk about needing to get a better work-life balance and what this means is that they are dissatisfied with how they spend their time and their energy.
Time and Energy
Those who worry about their work-life balance are usually feeling that they are spending too much time and energy in an unbalanced way: which means the appropriate amount of time and energy is not being put into the parts of their life that they think they should be going into. For example, someone may be spending a lot of hours in work and feel tired when they leave work which means their family life then gets fewer hours and only the dregs of their energy.
For other people it can mean that they have to put so many hours into childcare or caring for others that they don’t have time or energy to put into activities which they want for themselves (e.g. going to the gym or meeting friends or developing their career).
In general when people speak about work-life balance, “work” refers to the responsibilities we have and “life” refers to the activities which nourish and refresh us. There are people who love their jobs and they are nourished by it and they feel fine about putting loads of hours into work; on the other hand there are people who don’t like their job and resent having to put in any additional time.
Sometimes the imbalance is temporary and is due to unexpected or seasonal events which require more from us that normal and so the “balance” will sort itself out in due course. However, it becomes a problem when it goes on and on; at that point the person needs to try to take back some control.
Give and Take
To willingly give my time and energy, even a lot of it, is one thing but it is very different if I feel that my time and energy is being taken from me. This is another element in the work-life balance equation: “am I giving or is it being taken?”
Somewhere in this area lies the issue of control; am I in control or am I feeling that someone or something else is controlling me? When we go to work we allow the disciplines of the job to define how we spend our time and how we act this is our option. If you begin to feel that the demands of work are too much and that your control is being eroded then resentment can set in. The pressure of this can also be added to when other people in your life begin to comment that they see less of you than they want or that you don’t seem to have your usual amounts of energy or that you seem to be quite grumpy a lot of the time.