The New Normal

Mike McDougall
Mike McDougall

We’re sleeping with our smartphones. Scheduling Sundays in 15-minute increments and spending more time with work colleagues than with loved ones. Yet business leaders still float the idea of work-life balance. Isn’t it time to face the hard truth that this concept is a myth? Work is no longer a place, but a state of mind. Think of it as a subset of life, along with the various aspects of what constitutes your world. I’m not saying that there’s no place for personal pursuits in this always-on environment. Without something to work for, why work at all? Still, today’s digital environment can be challenging. With that in mind here are several tips to help you strike a more legitimate balance in your life.

1. Face reality. The sooner you can banish the idea of work-life balance from your mindset, the better. Just before the holidays a fellow PR pro blogged that “everything can wait” until the New Year. The blogger’s advice: Simply focus on family. While the sentiment was genuine, such thinking sets you up for disappointment when inevitably you are asked to work when you least want to.

2. Find your low-power mode. We’re rarely ‘off’ for more than a few days. Instead of trying to shut down completely, find a low- power mode. Respond to the most critical emails, but let the others marinate. Keep things moving, but avoid taking the reins.

3. Determine. Ask what really matters most to you, then make that mix of priorities come to life. Of course, it helps when your expectations are aligned with your employer’s. Do you want to focus on professional pursuits 18 hours a day, sleep a few hours, and repeat? Go for it. Yet you may be working alongside someone who feels that even thinking about business issues more than eight hours per day is verboten.

4. Know when to say no. Just because work is a state of mind doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily at the beck-and-call of those you’re counseling. The request to organize a press conference arrives the night of your son’s school play. A barrage of email comes as you begin a long-weekend getaway. Consider alternatives: delegate the responsibility or offer another option that will lead to the same outcome.

5. Model it. Don’t expect your team to adopt this new thinking unless you model the behavior and reward them for following suit. Openly discuss the issue, the challenges, and how people are finding ways to stay plugged into work, but without losing sight of everything else that matters.

Goodbye, work-life balance. It was fun knowing you, and you left us with many good stories.

Just as we had to set aside our pink ‘While You Were Out’ slips and four-inch-thick media directories, it’s time to move on.


Mike McDougall is president of McDougall Communications. He can be reached at: Follow him on Twitter, @McDougallPR

This article originally appeared in the January 19, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.