Work-life balance: quantity and quality

Up until recently I’ve always considered “work-life balance” to equate with a measure of quantity. That is, establishing and maintaining a healthy balance between the time one spends at work and the time one spends at home. For those of us in tech, and increasingly in other industries as well, the lines between the two can get blurry.

Checking work email after hours? Shopping for a gift for your niece on Amazon during the work day? Dialing into that work call after dinner? Running that errand in the middle of the afternoon? Working from home and doing laundry at the same time? These things really blur the line between doing home stuff and work and work stuff at home.

But “work life balance” is more than just quantity, it’s also quality: how does the quality of your life at work compare to the quality of your life at home? Are they positively influencing each other or dragging one another down?

For the past 8 months I’ve had a negative work-life-balance in quantity — checking and responding to work emails when I got up at 4:45a, working through lunch, thinking about work even when I got home, etc. In April I decided that needed to change and started protecting my “home time”, attempting to shift the scale of work-life-balance a bit more towards life. And it largely worked, at least in quantity.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago around mid-April that the quality aspect hit me. Some projects at work were sapping my energy. These were projects that I’d involved myself in because I saw an area that needed help, not because anyone had asked me to, and in doing so I’d stretched myself thin. Last week I started to pull away from those projects leaving them in the hands of the folks assigned to them. This has begun to improve my quality of life at work (and likely been a relief to the people on the project who never asked for my help anyway).

I’m also working on enhancing the quality of my life inside and outside of work. Re-engaging with friends after work. Reading a book during lunch at the office. Empowering myself to work from home during May Day. Little things that make a big difference.

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

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