3 Work-Life Balance Models

by Ramesh Natarajan on January 11, 2012

You should balance your work (career, professional goals, etc.) and life (family, health, self-improvement, etc.).

In order to lead a happy, successful, and meaningful life, there should be a balance between “work” and “life”.

But, the real question is, are you balancing it in the right way?

When geeks hear the term “Work-Life Balance”, they try to run away as fast as they can.

I beleive the term “Work-Life Balance” itself causes confusion, and let people take a wrong approach to this subject. The term “Work-Life Balance” gives you a feeling that work and life are separate entities that needs to be balanced to lead a happy life.

We geeks love technology, and we spend countless hours (sometimes days) on fine-tuning a peice of code that already works, to make it better. We love new bleeding edge technologies, and we are always trying to stay on top of it, by reading about it, playing with it, and figuring out how to implement it in a real-life scenario. There are lot of Linux distributions available. Learning and playing around with them is time consuming, but it is lot of fun.

In the process of enjoying technology, many tends to give less importance to the personal life. Geeks are very enthusiastic when they are in front of a computer, than when they are with their family members. Talking a walk in the park with kids or loved ones are the perfect time for them to catch-up on their work emails, or check the news, or check the twitter/facebook updates on their phones.

Geeks are smart. So, obviously they know that they are not focussing as much as they should on their personal life. But, the pleasure they get from the technology is extremely compelling that they typically come up with some vague logic to justify their lack of attention to personal life. But at some point in their life, they realize that they didn’t pay enough attention to their personal life, which typically happens when they have to leave their current job for some reason, or when their health is affected.

In my opinion there are 3 models to work-life balance.

1. Traditional Work-Life Balance Model

Any time someone says work-life balance, they are typically referring to this model. The following are some of the characteristics of this model:

  • Clear boundaries are defined between work and life.
  • They view work as a separate entity from personal life.
  • This is your typical 9-5 work model.
  • People in this model, don’t do any work related things once they are out of office.
  • They don’t like to talk about the details of their work to anybody outside.
  • They lack passion in the work they do.
  • They treat work as a means to earn money and nothing more.
  • Most of them in this model, hate the work they do. They’ll complain about the work a lot, and are always looking for a new job that pays more. But, when they get a new job that pays them more, the same cycle continues. There is no end to this.
  • They are typically stressed at work, and relaxed when they are away from work.
  • They’ll show more enthusiasm on Friday evening than on Monday morning.
  • In my opinion, this is not a good model, as work is used only as a leverage to earn money and nothing more.

2. Work-Life Balance Model (with No Balance)

Most of the geeks and enterpruners fall in this category. The following are some of the characteristics of this model:

  • They don’t view work as a separate entity.
  • The boundaries of work extends into their personal life.
  • They work really long hours.
  • They always bring work to home. “I’m working tonight (or this weekend)” is a typical excuses for them to avoid all personal events.
  • When they are forced to go out and participate in any social activities, most of the time, they are on their phone checking emails, or on phone talking with someone at work.
  • They love the technology aspect of their work (or the business aspect). They are very much obsessed with it, and typically end-up spending lot more time that necessary to complete a project.
  • They typically don’t care about how much they get paid. They are just happy doing the job that they do. Sometimes they are even afraid to look for new job with a fear that they might not get to do the kinds of fun things that they are doing in the current job.
  • They are typically relaxed when they are at work. When they are outside work, they are mostly thinking about the work project that needs to be completed.
  • In my opinion, this is not a good model, as this gives priority and focus only to work, at the expense of personal life.

3. Work-Life Balance Model (with a Purpose)

In my opinion, this is a good model, and we should strive to get to this model. The following are some of the characteristics of this model:

  • People in model understand that life is a single entity, and anything we experience (work and personal) is all part of this single life entity.
  • They have identified and defined a clear purpose and meaning to their life. Their purpose in life is typically aligned with the kind of work they do professionally that brings both money and happiness.
  • Family, friends, work, and nature are all part of their life that they enjoy and love.
  • They are extremely passionte about their work. If they don’t love what they do, they’ll not stop until they find a job that they love to do.
  • They’ll bring work to home if necessary, and at the same time, they’ll also take a break from work if necessary.
  • Their family and friends are supportive of their work, and they’ll encourage to make a difference.
  • They always seem to find a way to spend quality time with their family, friends, and community.
  • They always take a positive attitude towards everything in life.
  • They don’t go to work just because it pays money, and gives them the opportunity to work on the technology (or the business) that they love. They go to work, because the work they do is aligned with the clear purpose they have defined for themselves in their life.
  • They love to do the kind of work that makes a positive impact on others life. They strive to make a meaningful contribution to the world in their own small way.
  • When you are working in this model, you won’t have to think that you have to balance your work and life. It is already balanced and aligned with your life purpose.

Give some serious thought about which model you are currently in. If you are not in the third model mentioned above, start working from where you stand to reach to that model. This will bring joy in your life and the life of those around you.


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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Senthil January 11, 2012 at 12:32 am

good time to read when i am thinking abt the same….

2 Himanshu January 11, 2012 at 3:34 am

Very good article Ramesh.

3 Denis January 11, 2012 at 4:45 am

great post as usual.and one of the most important in life.thank you for the wisdom.

4 vinay jhedu January 11, 2012 at 7:19 am

nice article i have also read your gtd article both are useful

5 Alexey January 11, 2012 at 9:35 am

Thanks, good stuff!

6 Russell January 11, 2012 at 9:40 am

3 is a nice ideal -easy to say, not easy to do. If you are passionate about the things you do it is so easy to try to solve too many problems as soon as possible which leads to overextension of effort and breaks this model. A lot of people take on too much, and this is encouraged by many employers trying to get the most out of their staff. So you have to be realistic in assessing what is possible then be strong in making choices about what to tackle and what to avoid. In short you have to know when to say “No can do”. I had a boss once who was very good at this and it was a pleasure to work for him since he deflected those extra peripheral requests another boss might have delegated. This enabled me to get quality work done on time.

7 kju January 11, 2012 at 11:02 am

GREAT! :)

8 Vonskippy January 11, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Since you are an active participant in how your life happens, you’re already “in balance”. Unless you’re unhappy, why change it? If you are unhappy, why aren’t you changing it?

And you being unhappy is not the same as your wife/spouse/kids being unhappy about you – it’s up to you where those people/outside events/social life fit into YOUR grand scheme of things.

To many people do what “everyone else” thinks they should be doing. Just do what you like to do, what works for you, what makes you happy – and let everyone else worry about their own messed up lives.

9 Mahesh January 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Best post so far.

10 Torsten January 12, 2012 at 1:14 am

Yes good article, balance makes you happier.
I recommend also this book: Time Management for System Administrators
A very good help und fun to read.

11 Anonymous January 12, 2012 at 6:04 am

What about if you have a job that it’s not flexible enough? you have to spend a lot of hours simply because your boss wants you to stay, it would be better if you do long hours if you need and could do less hours if you have your work done and need the time for anything else.
It’s difficult to find a job environment so flexible to do what option 3 says.

12 Keyur January 12, 2012 at 6:16 am

Very well written mate.

I fall in mix of 2nd and 3rd – Where am happy to know that I do give time to family n social activities. :-)

13 Randy January 12, 2012 at 10:41 am

Excellent article. Great perspective. If your readers are looking for more detail on how to identify and define a clear purpose and meaning to their life, as you say, may I recommend getting a copy of the book, “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. Thanks.

14 babanna duggani January 12, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Thanks for the article. Its the perfect time for me while reading read this.

15 DaniBunny January 13, 2012 at 8:11 am

Striving to leap from 1 to 3….

16 FreeCat January 14, 2012 at 2:00 am

” They love to do the kind of work that makes a positive impact on others life. They strive to make a meaningful contribution to the world in their own small way.”
—– i love this sentence so much,thanks.

17 Mustapha Oldache January 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm

According to the great writer Jack London, we are paid to live. When we are no longer paid, and that is the suicide!. So this is the second model he has chosen. The first model is greedy, the third is the ideal.

18 Russell January 26, 2012 at 5:55 am

I belong to the 2nd group. :/

19 oOo January 31, 2012 at 11:38 am

“… identified and defined a clear purpose and meaning to their life.” … Wow, you can do that?

Open to interpretation. Stereotypically (sorry)
‘He’: your work (career, professional goals, etc., etc.) and life (family, health, self-improvement, etc.).
‘She’: your work (family, health, self-improvement, etc.) and life (career, professional goals, etc., etc.)

Anyway, what is this word “work”, and why does it balance against life?
(As in, “What is Life? And where can I get one?”)

Remember, you don’t need a “job”; better to get an income (& future income) to fit in with your life.
You need to balance your fun that depends on outside things, with the joy that comes from within. Remember, balancing with non-fun (or non-joy) is unbalanced.

Special advice to geeks:
If you enjoy your ‘work’, fine, but value yourself highly enough to insist on getting paid properly. (Then you can afford the T-shirt you are currently wearing.)

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