Why Nurturing a Work-Life Balance Expectation Was Never Realistic

Alexandra Cote 🚀
Dec 9, 2019 · 6 min read

Work-life balance has always been promoted as the ultimate goal to strive for.

We’re constantly guided to find a middle ground between our careers and relationships outside of work, while few talk about how unrealistic this expectation is.

In this maze of numerous contrasting opinions though, how can you find what works best for you?

The only option is to analyze your current work-life relationship and create your own belief system. But first, let’s look at the facts for a bit.

The current state of work-life balance

For a broad definition, think of work-life balance as a superior state of mind you reach when you’ve accomplished everything that you’ve ever wanted both in your career and personal life.

A quick search on Google and you’ll be lured into thinking that in order to achieve a healthy work-life balance, you must by all means achieve it in all aspects of your life. An average of 38.6 hours spent at work, 49.4 minutes for commuting to work, a healthy 40 hours of sleep, and you’re left with roughly 79 hours to run your errands and spend time with your family every week.

Not to mention our most productive hours of the day are while we’re at work, so most of us get home and binge on Netflix. But we still have weekends, right? Not really. Some of us have multiple jobs or side hustles, putting in approximately 5.4 hours of work each day of the weekend.

Supporters of better work-life balance shower us with benefits we yearn for, but so often won’t be able to get: reduced stress levels, increased happiness, more meaningful relationships. At least not at the same time.

Disconnect from work at home

Stop checking your email on weekends and during holidays

Close mobile notifications when not in the office

Take control of your time

Have regular breaks

Stay fit

Wake up early

Make the most of the time when at work (or don’t procrastinate)

Know when to stop working

Say no to the extra workload

Create your own rules to simplify your life

One thing that work-life balance advocates get right is that it is truly important for us not to get lost in our work and forget about our own well-being. But are all of their tips on how to balance work and life realistic?

The short answer: some. While getting rid of physical disruptors such as your phone or laptop that constantly send you notifications is fairly easy, blocking your thoughts just can’t be done.

You can’t expect to completely unplug and forget everything that’s going on at work when you know you’ve got an upcoming deadline and incoming calls with different clients, each used with doing things their own way. An issue I also deal with is having great ideas that pop into my mind each evening, so I unavoidably have to write them down instantly, or else I’ll forget them and waste brain power the next day trying to come up with something better.

In an attempt to eliminate the pressure of “balance”, others replace the concept with “work-life harmony”, “work-life integration”, or “work-life blend”. Sadly, what all these sugar-coated terms do is continue to emphasize the idea that there might be some sort of conflict between the two.

Work always seems to be “the bad guy who’s keeping you away from your family”. Few bring in the importance of finding a job you love, opening a business with your best friend or spouse, taking a year off, becoming a digital nomad, or simply finding happiness in your daily activities at work.

Unfortunately, there’s still a slight stigma against those who choose to work according to their own terms. As 9–5 has become the standard for people with a “decent” job, you’ll inevitably start to feel guilty or like you’re missing out on the good things during the weekend if you choose to work during the weekend.

Companies too are not yet prepared to tackle all of their employees’ needs when it comes to “balancing” work and life, even more so, to trust them in the process. There are just too many policies and regulations that increase bureaucracy and costs in the end.

Offering remote work options or work from home days are a trend these days, but employers still face the hurdles once it comes to monitoring whether their employees are actually engaged at work or not. Sure, this can be done with an automatic time tracking tool but it only solves the employer’s problem.

The employee on the other hand still wants to be able to take a 4-hour break at noon or have an extra free day once in a while. And how can you create a work schedule that works for you if your boss wants you to be in the office for 8 hours? No work-life balance to discuss here…

Another often-mentioned piece of advice to help you keep your work-life balance in check is to stay healthy. Sure, free gym memberships from your company are nice. But what if you like working out in the afternoons like me and 19% of people because you don’t have enough energy in the morning? Waking up at 5am is not an option either. Just look at all the YouTubers who’ve attempted this challenge but failed to understand that they also have to go to bed earlier to pull it off. Plus, a few of us are proven to be night owls naturally anyway.

Luckily, steps in this direction are currently being made. Take TotalWellness that lets employees work out whenever they want to during the work schedule or scroll down to see what other companies are doing to assure the wellness of their employees.

If speaking to your team manager and asking for a flexible schedule isn’t an option, the only thing left is to work on your well-being at a mental level.

What can you do instead of striving for the ideal work-life balance?

Truth is the whole idea of good work life balance was built around the universal worker. When reality kicks-in, you suddenly realize we all think differently about how we’d like to spend our days. Some of us want to put in 3 full days of work just to have the rest of the week for themselves, while others would like to work 3 hours each day to keep themselves going.

Set your own (achievable) priorities — define what balance is for you

Not everyone is career-focused just like not everyone dreams of having a large family or a house on the beach. According to Carl Jung, there are 16 common personality types, each with their own version of success. Pair this up with all of our distinct backgrounds and upbringing and you’ve got 7.7 billion people, each and every one of them with a unique perspective on life goals.


Work Better, Together.


Paymo is a work management platform that bundles task management, resource scheduling, native time tracking, and billing to help small teams work better, together.

Alexandra Cote 🚀

Written by

SaaS and HR Content Writer & SEO Strategist 🚀 Newsletter @The Content Odyssey


Paymo is a work management platform that bundles task management, resource scheduling, native time tracking, and billing to help small teams work better, together.

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