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Work-Life: Blend or Balance?

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It appears that ”blend” is  becoming the new standard!

In their article ”The five ways Generation Y will transform the workplace” (The Future of Work, Passing the Torch, The Globe and Mail, March 12, 2013), Lauren Friese and Cassandra Jowett talk about changes as Boomers retire. 

First they say Boomers have been obsessed with finding work-life balance.  (I prefer Moses Znaimer’s ”Zoomer” and  I think my generation has been far more focused on work than any other aspect of life!  We’ve been characterized as workaholics who define who we are by what we do…which is true by and large.  Some of us bought into “Freedom 55” and, if lucky enough to achieve that financially,  have not always been well prepared for the non-financial side of retirement.  Others of us (supporting Gen Y and Zer’s in their post secondary education!) need to work longer.  More Boomers remain in or have returned to the world o’ work, paid or unpaid, to find more meaning and purpose.  The new age of retirement is closer to 68, not 65). 

And was it ever realistic to believe that we could equally balance Community (volunteering), Culture (getting involved in the arts), Environment (appreciating the outdoors), Family (creating a vibrant home life), Health (focusing on fitness, nutrition, sleep), Learning (satisfying our curiosity), Purpose (searching for meaning in our own lives), Relaxation (giving ourselves permission to decompress) and Social Life (entertaining family and friends)?  If we’re honest, very few of us ever achieved true work-life balance at any one stage of our lives although perhaps it will tally over the span of our lifetimes.   

Second, they say that Gen Y (the most diverse, educated and tech savvy group ever) will change the workplace to suit their needs.  They’re used to working anywhere and any time, learning on-line, assuming responsibility for child and elder care.  The 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday through Friday workplace may not yet be dead but it’s dying because it just doesn’t work any more! 

This means changes…lots of changes…as more women assume leadership roles (read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In:  Women, Work and the Will to Lead“), as the role of managers changes (self directed work teams and Key Performance Indicators will be key), as “the office” is replaced by hotelling and telecommuting…

Will “blending” be more successful than “balancing”?  Only time will tell!