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Why work-life imbalance is the new norm

“Burned out and with 2 kids under 2, spouse works and life has been crazy this last 1.5 months.” This is what a Manager friend was telling me the other day.

This Covid crisis is showing us that there are two types of people right now- ones with children who’re crazy busy all the time, and the rest who want to be super-productive throughout. The first lot are more productive than they realise and most of the second lot are either bored or sacrificing their lives to work. Which one are you? Whichever you are, you must be feeling the intense pressure of the work-life imbalance growing upon you.

So I completely understand you telling me, “Sudeshna – another time please!” but hear me out. If anything, this Covid crisis has exposed three things to us:

1. We never really had any work-life balance

While we have always spoken about work-life balance through generations, Covid-19 has exposed that we never really had it. In the name of work-life balance, what was really happening is we got away from friends and family to feel productive and barter some time for money. In reality, we never had it and anyone who’s claiming that they have it all are lying to you. Don’t listen! Why am I saying this? Because even though most of us claim to want work-life balance, we have no freaking idea what proportions of what we want. Think am lying? You know I love thought experiments.

So, imagine you could have your ideal work-life balance. Now tell me how long do you want for what part of your life. Show me what your ideal calendar looks like. And then tell me, with a hand on your heart, if you could have your ideal calendar, could you be present with that part of work or life 100%, without missing any other bits of life, guilt-free, and worry-free? No? Then irrespective of whatever work-life balance you wanted, not only did you never have any, you will never ever have any- and this crisis is showing that to you right in your face.

2. How much flexibility matters when it comes to work

Flexible working has been the mantra for the last decade mostly for companies to help save cost on rent and retain a diverse talent pool. However, the reality of it is that this has been true only for a certain section of the corporate workers and even at that, the concept is fragile at best.

Since the last industrial revolution, and then the age of the computers, internet we have been promised efficiency and hyper-productivity because machines will do our jobs for us. Yet, for some reason, we are busier than our grandparents ever were. I have a bunch of theories about this but more on that another time. But right now, in this busy-ness of our lives, nuclear families, and the societal culture of living like the Jones, we need flexibility more than ever in our jobs. Because we have come a long way from the core industry of agriculture, we have to make this a priority for now and going forward. And this flexibility has to look a lot different with crises like the current one. Why? Because unlike any other time, we have to look after the family alongside working, and possibly cooking and cleaning and fifteen other things. So, we need a better life-design – work that revolves around our life rather than the other way around. And yet we need to make sure that people we are serving through our work, get the very best service.

3. Death and economic downturns are the only certainties in life

If you ask an Economist what the two certainties in life that ALL of us will experience – death and economic recessions. On an average, economic downturns come once every 7-8 years because something always seems to happen within a decade that overthrows our belief systems and the society and the economy responds to it. Irrespective of what the shock it, it is strong enough to reduce people’s purchasing power because of lay-offs and people losing money to the market. Sometimes whole industries collapse because of recessions. However, the wise plan for certain events. That’s why I always suggest people (under 45) in my circle to hold a year’s worth of emergency funds in cash in a savings account and the rest of it less expenses in a long term index fund. And that’s why I also suggest creating multiple income streams. I saw first hand that even when you’re a senior person in a reputable firm, your job is not safe. This safety of a corporate job is the biggest lie that has been sold to us by people who are not dynamic enough. Corporate jobs as a matter of fact are not safe. You can be let go tomorrow, recession or not, with just a severance package. And therefor the only certain source of income you’ll ever have is really your own business- whether it makes $500 a month or $5000 or more.

Now comes my favourite question – why on earth am I telling you this?

Because my friend, I am a learner. And you either learn through experience or by studying events and people. I did a bit of both. I always had been entrepreneurial and made quite a bit of money on the internet between 2006 and 2011. However, I decided to come back to entrepreneurship for a second income stream the day I saw some very senior folks at my firm being let go. I can’t deny I always liked the flexibility that it offered in terms of days and hours of the day I could work. And who can deny the lure of strategizing for their own gig, even if you are a strategy professional like me?

I don’t want this venture to take over my life, yet. But I want to tell you that this is a possibility, and a very real one. I have done it. And so have many of my friends and mentors. It is however, not for the faint-hearted. If you’re greedy for life and want to put in the work to live the life of your dreams, you my friend, are an entrepreneur. And over time I will show you how you can actually monetise your passions for a real source of secondary income.

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