'Work-life balance' is a common saying coined to promote a separation between work and the rest of life, however should we be promoting a goal of a balanced life rather than a good work-life balance? Anthropologists have said that one definition of happiness is to have as little gap as possible between your work and your play. Breaking the work/life dichotomy can take various forms, but what is consistent is the need to recognise that work is actually a vital and fulfilling part of our day-to-day.
Society has normalised the concept that work is work, the 9-5, a means to an end that is not to be enjoyed (signal the 1000's of coffee fuelled Monday themed memes). This traditional work model typically being one office, one team, a desk and a yearly salary, and your time outside of the 40 hours a week is your actual ‘life’. However, we need to recognise the fact that work contributes to a large part of our existence and though it sustains us financially, it should also bring us other benefits. If you won the lotto, would you quit or change things up? We need to take a holistic view on life, which means we don't design one around the other, but look at the whole picture. This approach is not for everyone but it proposes that the traditional work model isn’t either.
So, what does the alternative to the work/life dichotomy look like? For Sync members and clients, it means building professional relationships and collaborating on projects outside of the office, in fact it can be from anywhere. As the ease of working remotely increases and roles on offer diversify, the professional world is changing. As far as I can see (and from experience), there are some major factors that have changed to buck the traditional work trend. These factors are not mutually exclusive, in fact quite the opposite:
Relationships: There is concern that removing the office environment removes interactions and face time but valued relationships and strong communication are necessary to make this alternative possible. This arguably strengthens the key relationships and removes a lot of superficial noise. This world is of course supported by newly available tech, there are no limits to the connections you can make.
Technology: Technology is the web connecting us all, allowing us to work remotely, removing barriers to isolation, expanding industries that allow greater flexibility, allowing collaboration on documents and much more. This ever-changing landscape has no bounds.
Income vs Living: People are starting to ask questions like should their salary be their sole income? Is this enough? Can they in fact survive on less? Is the side hustle/passion project possible? People are re-considering moving for a job, joining the rat-race in the ‘big city’ because that is what is believed to be the best option financially; what about deciding how we want to live first.
Loyalty: I know what you are thinking, millennials have no loyalty to companies, but the truth is large corporates are often showing even less loyalty to their staff. Over-working them with little compensation, narrowing advancements, less and less pay transparency, restricting flexibility in roles for returning mums, new dads and travel bug sufferers.
Equality: That wage gap… Society is demanding increased flexibility and removal of discriminatory barriers, increasing diversity with diversity of life.
Moral Compass: Individuals and groups are taking control of their careers and what impact they are having on community and the environment; they are challenging employers who aren’t aligned to their social goals.
So how do you make it work and is it too risky? My advice is to talk to people, ask opinions and advice, go to professional events, do a cost-benefit analysis, think about your ideal balance and define your identity. Join networks and collectives that support and nurture this concept, individuals working collectively, such as Sync. Take on a side project or participate in a collab. If it seems too big of a change at first, you can take small steps. Helping out with something that you care about for free, in your free time, can be an excellent way to decide whether you want to pursue it more wholeheartedly.
The Sync Collective recognises that the world is changing, and so are people’s needs. We have started the co-op to support this change and allow more people, from all different backgrounds, to create a balanced life that doesn't have massive deficiencies. Define your passions and skills and make an earnest living from them in the place you want to be. I support Sync because I want to be in control of the professional direction of my life. A life and career that allows flex as well as ambition, not having to sacrifice one for the other. 'Your mind is like a parachute… It only works when it is open'. Join the collective!
Written by Claire (30), engineer, artist, business development consultant and life-long student