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Is work-life balance the ultimate science fiction fantasy?

Is work-life balance the ultimate science fiction fantasy?

There must be easier ways to manage than implanting a microchip.

Work is erratic. Sometimes work hours meander into family time. But I’m learning to be more agile.

I watched the TV series Severance recently, and it got me thinking about work-life balance.

It’s set in an office where the workers get a “severance chip” implanted in their brains, to separate their work life from their home life.

When the characters arrive at the office, they have no recollection of their personal life. When they leave the office, they forget completely about their work life.

As a married woman with kids, holding down a senior design manager job and a side hustle, I’ve been trying to find my own balance between work life and home life,

Last year, I tried to home-school my primary scholar kids. I wanted to give them a future-ready learning experience.

It seemed like an ideal scenario. I was able to be an involved parent, while working remotely from my farmhouse balcony.

The bonus was zero wasted time in traffic. But life isn’t always like driving straight on the N1. It can be like driving in and out of the notorious Gillooly’s interchange in Joburg. Chaotic.

Even though the boys had an au pair at home, I had to intervene at times, muting myself in a Teams meeting to stop a sibling war, or stopping to deal with an exhausted learner who had downed tools.

I would lock myself in my home office after “working hours”, when the work pile was high.

It was a lot to cope with. I hadn’t accounted for the post-pandemic mind-shift, and how draining it can be.

So this year, I changed the scenario, creating “swim lanes” to separate work and personal.

I now work from home three days a week. The kids do their online curriculum at a tutor centre. They socialise with other children and get assisted by far more patient professionals.

I’m forced to be more present when I’m with the kids. I engage more with their learning, and have more time to focus on my work.

But I still haven’t found the balance. In fact, I’m starting to believe that “work-life balance” is a mirage.

I still sometimes get interrupted by calls from the school, when one of the kids forgot something at home or falls ill.

Work is erratic. Sometimes work hours meander into family time. But I’m learning to be more agile.

In an ever-changing environment, I’m prioritising what matters most.

I fantasise about severing my work existence from my home existence, just like those characters in the series. It’s not easy.

No matter how good I may get with creating out-of-office responses after working hours, there will always be interference.

I’m struggling with insomnia too, which could be from watching too much TV after hours.

It’s my way of keeping work thoughts from flowing into my personal space.

But as soon as my head hits the pillow in the stillness of the night, the thoughts come flooding through.

I wish there was a microchip that could do the severance for me. That’s not how real life works, though. It can get messy and chaotic, but that’s exactly why it will always be more interesting than fiction!

Nonkululeko Britton-Masekela

Change expert, Nonkululeko Britton-Masekela, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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