Finding the right equilibrium between one’s professional and personal lives is known as “work-life balance”. Work and life would appear to be two opposing terms. However, because work is a part of life and the other areas of life can certainly also be considered work, “life domain balance” may be a more appropriate term.
This refers to the individual weighting of the various life domains. These include career, housework and honorary appointments, on the one hand, and one’s relationship to one’s own children, partner and family, hobbies, sport and health on the other. These aspects can be experienced in both a positive and a negative way. They stand in mutual competition for an individual’s time and energy, but they can also complement each other.
The term “balance” often calls to mind a scale, which leads to the belief that there should be an even distribution between one’s personal and professional lives. However, this view should be taken with a grain of salt, as the appropriate ratio between the various areas of life is individual. 1
How and to what extent the aforementioned life domains should be included in an individual’s daily life depends on how he or she chooses to structure his or her life.
It is possible to create a strict temporal and spatial division between the “profession” and “free time/family” domains. This is referred to as segmentation. One’s professional and personal lives proceed in parallel, but do not interfere with one another.
An integration of professional and private objectives is also possible. An “integration objective” that is superordinate to the respective objectives in the two domains can be used to coordinate daily requirements on an ongoing basis. A successful integration means fewer curtailments in the various areas.
A third way of structuring life is a removal of boundaries, in which the spatial, temporal and substantive objectives in the professional and personal domains are merged.
These three forms differ not only in terms of individual lives, but in terms of shared lives as well. Couples with very different careers tend to prefer segmentation, while those with similar professions prefer integration. 2
Companies can help their employees with their balancing act between the various domains in order to maintain and improve their health and performance over the long term. This can be achieved by offering flexible working hours and locations, structuring work duties and workspaces appropriately, or structuring breaks in a way that helps with recovery, among other measures to support employee health.
1 See Ulich, E. & Wiese, B.S. (2011). Life Domain Balance. Konzepte zur Verbesserung der Lebensqualität. (Concepts for improving life quality.),(1st ed.) Wiesbaden: Gabler, p. 40-41.
2 Hoff, E.-H., Grote, S., Dettmer, S., Hohner, H.-U. & Olos, L. (2005). Work-Life-Balance: berufliche und private Lebensgestaltung von Frauen und Männern in hoch qualifizierten Berufen. (Work-life balance: professional and personal life structures of women and men in highly qualified professions.) Zeitschrift für Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie, 49, 196-207. (Journal for work and organisational psychology.)