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Work-life balance was never going to work

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

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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.

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"Work-life balance was never going to work," according to Dr. Greg Ketchum, founder of Talent Planet and former CNET Radio host. "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.

CNET

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.

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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.


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