In today’s society, with increasing job demands and smartphones and other types of technology that keep us perpetually plugged in, many of us are in search of ways to find that elusive balance between work and life.
But the actual words “work-life balance” are problematic, according to Ellen Kossek, Ph.D, a professor at Michigan State University’s School of Labor & Industrial Relations and an expert on improving relationships between work, family and personal life.
“It’s rare for most people to have an equal balance,” she said. Striving to reach equilibrium is like trying to achieve perfection: It’ll never happen and only leads to frustration and fatigue.
Instead, a better way to think about it is “work-life relationships,” she said, “so your life doesn’t feel at odds.” Similarly, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving a healthy relationship between work and life.
In it, they explain how each person has their own way of approaching their personal and professional lives, which they term flexstyle. The idea of individual flexstyles evolved from Kossek and Lautsch’s research with hundreds of professionals from different types of organizations.
Figuring Out Your Flexstyle
There are three major flexstyles and two subtypes within each category. What separates the subtypes is the level of control and happiness the person feels using that flexstyle. As they explain in the book, two people may be doing the same thing, such as finishing up a project at home, but one person may feel content while the other one feels spread thin and unsatisfied.
In addition to control, also important are how you manage interruptions and whether your flexstyle aligns with your values and your identity, Kossek said. She described various identities: work-centric, family-centric, dual-centric (both family and work) and other-centric (which places the importance on other things such as volunteering, church or social life). Your identity is how you envision yourself in the world and define your life’s primary purpose.