Questioning Work/Life Balance

Pastoral Messages | June 8, 2023

The term “work/life balance” has become somewhat of a buzzword over the last few years, especially among the Millennial and Gen Z populations. In general, work/life balance seems to serve as a catchall phrase for how we ration the scarce commodity of time. If you or someone you know declares they’re trying to develop a healthier work/life balance, chances are they mean that one demand on their time feels disproportionate to another. Perhaps this is the type of person who responds to work emails from the moment they open their eyes in the morning to the moment they drift off to sleep at night. Or, perhaps this is a college student trying to make time for both sports and studying. I’ve even talked with retired folks trying to find that happy medium between helping out with the grandkids and enjoying their own hobbies like gardening or traveling.  

Although I’m part of a generation that really champions the cause of work/life balance, I’ve come to question it as a principle. Don’t get me wrong: I highly support and encourage wholistic living as healthy and necessary. However, I find the concept of work/life balance to be somewhat of a misnomer, for two main reasons.  

Number one: that little slash between “work” and “life” makes it sound as if one’s occupation is entirely separate from who they are, as if work is something that merely props up life and makes being alive possible. It’s true, of course, that many people who work do so out of necessity to earn a livable wage and secure health benefits. I am also well aware that it’s the exception and not the rule that a person’s occupation overlaps with their vocation or what brings them a sense of joy, meaning, and community. However, I’ve encountered a vast and wide variety of people for whom their work gives them a deep sense of satisfaction, because they get to use their passions and skills to meet the needs of the world. This includes nurses who care for patients, school administrators who care for teachers, engineers who care for the safety of others, etc. I’ve talked with plenty of you who fall into this second category, and while it might not be a universal truth it is true for many: work can be as much a treasured part of your life as any other aspect of what and who makes you, you. 

Which brings me to my second critique: the work/life balance buzzword seems to negate the possibility that your work could, in fact, overlap with those other meaningful parts of your life. I’m thinking in particular of those of you who get to work with dear family or friends, be that on a family farm or in an exceptionally positive corporate office. Work can also be an outlet for tending to other areas of wellbeing. There are some in the 65+ crowd who keep working past the point of financial necessity, because their jobs keep them physically active, help them maintain a healthy schedule and mindset, and feed their needs for regular human connection. 

Again, not everyone has a job that serves them in a wholistic way. Rather, for plenty of people, the work for which they earn a wage is merely what pays the bills and nothing more. Regardless, I’d encourage all of us who have ever thought above improving our work/life balance to probe a bit deeper by asking ourselves “Which of my needs are not currently being met? How can I reshuffle my time and commitments so that I’m truly well, physically, socially, emotionally, mentally, financially, and spiritually? And what changes might I make to help those I love along their own wellness journeys?” 

In John 10:10, Jesus proclaims to God’s people, “I came that [you] might have life and have it abundantly.” When we’re attentive to all aspects of our humanity — our bodies, relationships, money, minds, feelings, work, faith — we more fully experience that abundant life and the wholeness we ultimately have in Christ. 

-Megan Eide, pastor in residency

3 Comments on “Questioning Work/Life Balance”

  • Carol Freeman

    June 8, 2023 at 6:23 pm

    Megan, I have just gotten to know you and have enjoyed your sermons (especially that amazing poem.) You share a lot of wisdom here. Blessings for your future!

  • Audrey Keeney

    June 8, 2023 at 4:22 pm

    I like your pastoral reflection. You have expressed this well. This needs to be assessed often in our lives so we do spend our time in meaningful ways, both at work and in our leisure time.

  • Doug Hultquist

    June 8, 2023 at 2:26 pm

    Very well done, Megan. I think this issue needs to be contemplated by more people more often.

    Have a good week. You will be missed

Leave a Comment