Decoding work-life balance

Decoding work-life balance: The irony and whether it is a “Woman only” prerogative?

Decoding the term:

Let us first get into the literal definition of the above term.

Literally, it means the work-leisure dichotomy or the balance in the time allocated between one’s work and one’s leisure (Read personal life)

While the focus is not going to be on the word-by-word etymology of the term, importance is confined to the elusiveness of the term before we eventually touch upon the gender bias surrounding this term.


Like all management grads, I too proceeded with a mindset on the need for a perfect work-life balance from my very first job!!

The more I thought that I should finish my work at office and not carry it forward to weekends and late working at home, more often I was seen doing these.

I have often observed different people in my own team (both peers and superiors) find their own ways of managing their time between work and home.

Some go on saying how they never take their work home but finish it off at office and find time just for sleep!! Some talk about how work is bread and butter, but how important it is to leave at fixed timings so that one spends time at home (But they never do because they end up working at home and seem to have a negative work-life balance!!)

One of our senior leaders gave the most realistic take on the elusive term.

She said “There is nothing called work-life balance; anything you work for unbalances your life; it’s all about the choice you make; it’s little things that you give priority to: both in work and personal front; while you may not be able to achieve a clear balance, never give up on the key priorities which may be limited to a few items in your personal-life front; during that period work-life takes a back seat and likewise”.

Words coming from such a senior leader speak of her sheer experience.

There’s nothing like a “One size fits all” approach!!

And I believe that one’s own priorities pave way to one’s life, health and well-being regardless of how many health or stress related awareness programs you may arrange for or attend!!!

Aren’t men equally concerned about work-life balance?

Quite surprising it is to see “Work-life” conflicts be clearly termed as a challenge only for women!!

This comes regardless of the recent changes we have seen: be it Paternal leave for childcare (With leaders like Mark Zuckerberg living the change), Paid maternity leave and even elevated roles after maternity for women, representation of women in C suites and higher ranks, encouraging women to work after career breaks, flexible work options or even the recent “Equal pay” as in Iceland.

When these welcoming changes seemed to have influenced the current work-culture and also the way forward for Gen Z, why is it a gender-specific problem?

Why is it “a woman only” prerogative?

The society in early times and even to date has been conditioned to believe that the role of a man is that of a “Provider” and that of a woman to be a “nurturer”.

While women are doing extremely great in their chosen fields, they get promoted and elevated to higher roles; this is termed as “breaking a glass ceiling”. Not the same for a man!!

When a woman chooses to prioritize something as crucial as childcare over work or even duration of her break, it is imperatively a personal choice and need.

In fact, many of the men I had interacted with in my previous role were seen giving a lot of importance to things such as child’s school meetings, birthdays, family functions, paternal care (though the organization has no defined policy for paternal care) and hence were clear that they didn’t want to work during weekends or certain shifts.

Lesser or close to no attention to men’s work-life conflicts

A recent study by Boston school of business validates that the new demands and judgment of women being expected to achieve better “work-life” balance has only added to our plates.

The study says “Work-life balance issues aren’t just women’s issues. Even in elite jobs, men are experiencing challenges at the same rate as women, but because we expect different things from men and women, men develop different strategies”.

The problem is, “work-life” balance, almost is made to believe that it was invented only because women are expected to be adept in balancing their lives (which is clearly never possible regardless of gender!!!)

 Ultimately, it only means how we choose to prioritize the time (read available time) between work and our own personal goals; 

If we are even able to devote a small iota of the time towards better living and enjoying what we have in hand we have at least been able to taste one drop of the ocean!!


Sathya Sundaresan
HR Professional &  Life Coach.