Why we work and Managing Work-Life Balance and Thriving in Hyper-Competition

Why do we work?

Why do we work? The obvious answer to this question would be that we need the money and benefits to support our families and ourselves. However, is money the only criterion for working?

Moreover, many work to remain productive and active throughout their adulthood without which they would lapse into depression and melancholy. Having said that, there are many who do not engage in formal and mainstream occupations and yet, they remain focused and happy. Indeed, surveys have shown that the reason a majority of us work is that work gives us meaning to our lives.

In other words, we define ourselves by the work we do and the job we hold in addition to other markers of identity. Perhaps there cannot be a bigger justification for working than to seek fulfillment and success in the workplace that would enhance our personal lives as well.

Therefore, it is indeed the case that work gives us money and meaning in addition to giving us an identity as individuals.

One of the first questions that strangers and casual acquaintances often ask is about what we do for a living. Anyone who has traveled would encounter this question from people whom we strike up conversations with and hence, what we do is as important as who we are as individuals in society.

Indeed, the fact that if we are successful in our jobs and careers and strike deals or win customers for our organizations in addition to garnering rewards as well as pocketing huge bonuses and fat pay checks means that what we do is the fulcrum around which our adulthood depends on. This takes the form of happiness as individuals being defined almost entirely by our jobs.

Working for a Living and Living to Work

Having said that, one must also take into account the fact that while we must work for a living we must not live to work. In other words, while it is alright to take our jobs and careers seriously, there can be downsides to making them the be all and end all of our existence.

These downsides range from lack of quality personal relationships, neglecting our spouses and our children and increased chances of lifestyle illnesses and work related illnesses. For instance, surveys have shown that workaholics are at double the risk of heart attack and repetitive strain injury since they spend their entire waking hours at work. This means that as it is important to find fulfillment through work, it is equally important to find joy and happiness in our personal lives.

While we do not advocate abandoning work, we would also like to point out that in recent months; there have been spates of studies which show that many professionals in their forties would like to retire sooner if they can afford it due to the toll that their work is taking on their personal lives.

Healthy Work-Life Balance

Work Life Balance

Therefore, the key to success or the key to thriving in our lives depends on how much we can maintain the work-life balance.

This has become so important that many organizations now regularly ask their employees to take time off mandatorily as well as spend more time with their families in addition to giving those options such as work from home and extended maternity and paternity leaves.

The reason for this is that overworked employees are often unfocused and unproductive in addition to being beset with sickness and illness that would impose costs on the organizations in terms of enhanced medical benefits as well as loss of working hours.

Therefore, the current thinking among organizations is that instead of squeezing their employees and leaving both parties worse off in the process, a healthy balance between professional and personal lives of work-life balance would be the key to having productive workplaces.

Indeed, organizations such as Citigroup have policies in place that require their employees to take mandatory days off so as to minimize the stress on them in addition to ensuring that the organizations do not overly become dependent on them.

Work and Realities of Contemporary Times

Having said that, there are many who scoff at these suggestions since they point to the realities of the hyper competitive business and work landscape where fancy things such as the ones discussed above would not lead to any gains since the marketplace is such that one must work or perish.

This is the realist school of management thought that holds that given the hyper competitive times we live in, unless organizations and employees give their best consistently and without fail, they would be like the Dodos which became extinct since they were unable to change with the times.

Therefore, these management thinkers while accepting the work life balance theory also point and stress on the practical and realist side of the equation wherein people without jobs and organizations without business would mean that they drop out of the game altogether.


Considering the points made so far, it is indeed the case that our view is that despite the realities of having to slog and work, we must not lose sight of the larger goal which is that our lives are a marathon and not hundred meters sprints and hence, it is better to slow down in the present to be more productive in the future.

In addition, we also advocate the suggestion that for those who are starting their careers, they would well do to slog as much as they can and once they reach a certain level, they can then ensure that they have a healthy work life balance and with some savings, they can look forward to a fulfilling midlife and retirement.

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Workplace Efficiency