Work-life balance was never going to work

A workplace consultant calls BS on a holy grail of employment.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The PHM HealthFront™. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
Expertise Automotive technology, smart home, digital health. Credentials
  • 5G Technician, ETA International
Brian Cooley
2 min read

The nature of work-life balance has been radically changed as tens of millions of us got sent home to work in a situation we assumed would be temporary. Now, as millions prepare to go back to the workplace, many doing so thankfully, the goal of work life balance can be tackled afresh. But at least one workplace consultant we know says the very idea is flawed.

Watch this: Forget about work-life balance

"Work-life balance was never going to work," according to Dr. Greg Ketchum, founder of Talent Planet and co-host of the Coach on Demand podcast. "The whole idea is kind of a fantasy that I'm supposed to carve out and guard (my) time, but you get to work, things start rolling, and you're a co-conspirator in your own demise because you try to get everything done" without true integration of work and personal demands.

Greg Ketchum

Dr. Greg Ketchum of Talent Planet says work-life balance was an idea that was never going to work because there's no balance in achieving it: It's all on the worker.


Instead Ketchum proposes work-life "integration" where employers solve more of the pain points of achieving balance. "Employers have to take a holistic view of their employees, helping (them) manage the responsibilities of their entire life," says Ketchum. 

A recent Boston Consulting Group survey of working parents during the COVID-19 pandemic found that 60% of working parents have no outside help caring for their children and nearly half of employees say the quality of their work suffers as a result. Ketchum says those kinds of numbers conspire to create a less engaged workforce and instead imagines employers providing sources of elder care, child care and other services as part of the employment picture, not apart from it. He advocates a "work-life integrator" position or department at the office to help employees coordinate such support, whatever its source.

How are employers supposed to pay for all this in a time of historic economic strain? "There's going to be a lot less business travel and lot less (leased) real estate going forward," says Ketchum, and that some of those savings can pay for work-life integration.


Dr. Greg Ketchum had a lot more to say about the concept of work life balance in his conversation with CNET's Brian Cooley. See their full conversation in the video above.

Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.