You’ve heard the question, maybe even pondered it yourself: Do you live to work or work to live?
Realistically, most of us work so we can earn enough to eat, clothe ourselves and have a roof over our heads. However, the question goes deeper than the need for a paycheck. As the past few years have caused many to examine their priorities, workers are paying greater attention to the concept of work-life balance.
So, what does it mean to “live to work?” What does it mean to “work to live?” Let’s examine each option.
If You Live to Work
It’s said someone lives to work if they focus intently on their job. Quite possibly, their career is the number one priority in their life.
While this can create a lot of stress, it also can be hugely rewarding. Imagine what would happen, for instance, if a surgeon treated their career casually. Furthermore, many people who live to work are genuinely passionate about what they do, even if it means long work hours and lots of stress.
Arguably, the live to work mentality has fostered many of the modern improvements we enjoy today. However, many view the lives of people devoted exclusively to their work as sad and lonely, lacking friends, family and outside experiences.
If You Work to Live
On the other hand, working in a job you don’t care about simply to receive a paycheck can be soul-crushing. The need to make a living doesn’t mean you have to stay in a job you hate. If work puts you in a bad mood or causes a lot of stress, it might be time to consider a new job or career change. At best, you may find a job that enables you to grow in some way.
“Work is not our enemy, it only becomes the enemy when we allow work to take over our lives and our sense of self,” says Career Resilience Coach Kathryn Sandford, in Lifehack. She supports the notion of “making a life, rather than making a living” and finding a career in which you can feel happy and fulfilled.
Your work-life choice doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. As the pandemic continues to reshape our values, work-life balance seems much more relevant.
“Work,” says Forbes, “is a slice of your you. Likewise, life does not begin with your title, job description, or place on the corporate hierarchy. Work is not life; it is a part of your life.”
Finding a balance means engaging in a career you find personally fulfilling, without allowing it to take over other aspects of your life.
What is work-life integration and how is it different from work-life balance? The distinction is subtle. While “balance” implies a separation between our work and personal lives, "it also implies competition, and competing priorities must feel "balanced" says Nikita Weisgerber, VP of Operations at TPD. “Integration” eliminates the competition and intentionally blends the two.
The type of job you do may dictate work-life integration. Or you simply may prefer switching between personal and work tasks. Integration might mean folding laundry while on a conference call or checking work emails during a break in a child’s soccer game.
At its best, work-life integration can help reduce stress and expand your ability to manage your self-care, home life and work responsibilities.
“The largest advantage of work-life integration is flexibility,” notes CO, a website for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “When employees are able to properly coordinate their schedules and responsibilities, they are more likely to experience satisfaction in all areas of their life.”
Although integration involves overlap between our work and personal lives, boundaries are still important. Try to schedule your downtown or family time like you would a work event, treat them like a nonnegotiable. Employers and employees both should agree on where those boundaries exist.
Ready to find a harmony that works for you?
If you haven’t yet found a way to balance or blend your personal and professional lives, maybe it’s time for a change. A more rewarding career that enables you to enjoy both parts of your life could be right around the corner.
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