Work life balance has become something of a modern day unicorn; often sought, yet never truly seen. There are different theories as to why this, once widely accepted norm, is quickly becoming the stuff of myth and legend.

As businesses rush to adapt to both mobile and web technologies, the lines that defined our personal and professional lives have become sufficiently blurred. The regular 9 to 5 has at least doubled, with the average Canadian working 16 hour days. A key culprit in this priority shift is the growing ability for people to work anytime, anywhere.

No More Lazy Sundays

Take one look at big name companies like Research in Motion (RIM), Google, and Yahoo and it’s clear we’ve moved beyond the days of Rockwellesque portrayals of everyday life. Gone are the days of the Saturday Evening Post followed by the Sunday morning crossword, they’ve been replaced by remote work stations and weekend huddles in the conference room.

About a year ago, Waterloo Ontario’s RIM – the makers of Blackberry – started limiting vacations and asking for a six-day work week from employees. Why? To perfect, test, and release a high-quality and fully-featured Blackberry 10 platform; a goal which had already met with costly delays and threatened the future of the company. The majority of employees answered the call, putting in the extra effort temporarily in order to save thousands of jobs in the long run.

Of course, the other strategy is not to state your need in the form of a request, but rather, as part of ongoing expectations and project-based demands. Work like balance comes secondary to project completion and you’re never really switched off when your phone is switched on.

It’s a Two-Way Street

The outdated dream of work life balance may be eroding away but analysts caution, it’s a two-way street.

A five year study conducted by the Families and Work Institute revealed that:

  • 30% of employees often or very often feel burned out or stressed by their jobs
  •  27% feel emotionally drained from their work
  • 42% feel used up at the end of the work day

Despite an employers reasons or expectations, this imbalance can’t continue indefinitely. Something’s got to give and that give is being discovered in unexpected places.

Adjusting to the “New Normal”

Since the absence of a work life balance is becoming the “new normal” for many employers, their employees are finding unique ways to supplement it. Many newly balanced adapters suggest that finding ways to refresh and recharge is simply a matter of changing your perspective.

Thanks to technology, your time off the clock isn’t as compartmentalized as it used to be. Rather than dividing it between the personal and the professional; integrate it. Integrated balance means fitting in breaks, downtime, days off, and vacations where they make the best sense, not necessarily on a regularly scheduled basis.

Many people are also rethinking the type of work they do. Temporary and contract employment is a growing trend, especially in Europe. Many of our temporary team choose contract work as an ongoing lifestyle choice, choosing assignments that fit their lifestyle and professional interests at the same time.

Work is meant to be part of life, but not life entire. If you find yourself experiencing prolonged job dissatisfaction, perhaps it is time to head in a new, invigorating professional direction.

Then again, when all else fails many contemporary professionals seem to be advocating a seasoned, more philosophical approach to job satisfaction: do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.