Whether it is the nearby grocery supermarket or a high end cosmetic store , the ‘organic’ shelf usually has a tilted price tag.Just as ‘going organic’ , ‘being vegan’ etc have become buzzwords for the urban population , the very term ‘work life balance’ (WLB) has too become a much too overused word in the corporate world. Almost every organisation worth his or her salt speaks volumes about ensuring a healthy balance for its employees and being an employee friendly place at its core. Flipping through glossy magazines (some quite reputable, some disputable!!) have led me to discover a very familiar pattern – the flag-bearers of work life balance, the sermon givers about a healthy work family domain and the chroniclers of the success stories of a successful professional and personal life – are mostly men (sometimes women) photographed in a few settings that can be again roughly categorised into
1)A sophisticated, glossy office, shining marble, expensive art work , fancy files, folders, lots of awards and certificates (doubt their authenticity) and the object of admiration smiling gaudily , transpiring his/her success story through his/her carefully manicured smile
2)An expensive mansion, happy spouse , smiling kids, wagging dog, and everything around emanating a stench of rich and prosperity.
The reader in awe, admires and aspires to attain , in his distant dream, to attain such a balance.However, i find such narratives of work life balance extremely imbalanced. The very term should be an all encompassing one, an all inclusive one.The glossy magazines, the media interviews, the whole paraphernalia revolves around the creme le da creme at the very top.
A documentation of the work life balance of those down the ladder is an absolute necessity.The struggle of the office peon walking the tightrope between juggling his 9-5 job, surviving the everyday struggles of travelling long hours to work ,the rising prices of food and poor job satisfaction levels. A study of the conflicts faced by the office cleaner who sweeps the office floors marbles and tiles sparkling before the ladies and gentleman can walk through them in their Gucci and Manholo Blahniks , her concerns about childcare, social support and emotional well being needs to be accounted. A balance in the study of the various concerns that impact employees personal and professional domains by researchers, academicians and the popular media is essential so that the term ‘work-life balance’ do not simply cater to the elite few. The abuse of the term to propagate the success stories of a handful of female CEOs in the country (mostly female) does not in any way empower the millions of Indian women toiling in the scorching summer in the agricultural field , often ending up being malnourished, unpaid and probably widows of farmers, women in the unorganised service sectors like domestic help, prostitution or even transgenders deserve as much of an work and life balance as the HR executive in a sharp pant and shirt.The term should not be inclusive only to men who have made it to the very top, it needs to create an engaging narrative about the struggles of the ones who have survived at the very bottom- the manual scavenger? toilet cleaner?the security guard ? the autowala?
Lastly, the term work life balance itself should be aware not to classify itself as one of the high end, exclusive and hence an expensive state of psychological equilibrium, accessible only to the Nooyis, Kochaar’s or Ambani’s,In a capitalist, consumerist society if the overall happiness index of a city, state or nation is to grow,it needs ensure each employee, across sectors and grades, is leading a holistically happy life.
So, have you had your scoop of Work-Life Balance?