Some people these days have a notion of, instead of trying to abolish work to just simply balance it more perfectly with the rest of their life. This means that instead of quitting that job you hate with the boss that disrespects you you may just be more inclined to just give less of your energy and time to it and more energy and time to family and play, etc. The Onion has even made light of what would happen (potentially) if you established a life-life balance.
In theory giving a job that you don’t like (or maybe just one that is more stressful than helpful) less attention and energy and more to the things that you care about could certainly improve one’s own life. And I don’t really have anything against work-life balances being established in the short run but in the longer side of things we have stuff to do and it doesn’t involve blurring the distinction between living and working. For me those are the wrong lines to blur because life is about living and how you live shouldn’t be uniformally defined by one sort of activity. Especially when that activity isn’t very flexible or emphasizing norms of autonomy, equality and so on.
Another problem with the work-life idea is that it’s missing half the picture and in general isn’t a very confrontational or systematic approach to work. It is very much focused on benefiting the individual in question and making sure they can be with their loved ones or loved activities more often. But this doesn’t really shape the nature of the work they are doing. It will still (most likely) be stressful and not encouraging and hazardous to them. It will just be so in lesser and small chunks and that is also what makes this idea of work-life balance dangerous.
Because people may get into a false sense of security about either themselves, their job or something else. The exploitation they face or the disrespect they have to deal with or the drudgery they have to go with day in and day out is suddenly more “okay” because their boss happens to be a nice guy or a flexible person. But the problems of centralizing responsibilities, powers and control into one person is still gonna be there. Nothing has fundamentally changed the way in which you interact with this side of society, you have just lessened it while still remaining entrenched to some degree.
Again, this isn’t to say the lessening has no benefits or that it shouldn’t be tried or that anyone who does this is a reformist shit. But it can certainly also have its share of negative or at least potential negative side effects and I hope highlighting them as easily as I have done here shows that it isn’t the way out in the long run. It may be a good short-term de-stresser from work but that doesn’t mean it is what’s going to get you to where you want to be in the end, necessarily.
Another way to get there is to engage in both a work-life strategy and a slack-work strategy. By that I mean one strategy for how to personally distance yourself from work and another about how to personally engage in work in a mode of resistance when necessary. The first strategy is mainly about the relation you have between your job after hours while the latter is much more about the stuff you do during work.
So you know you want to slack and you also know the terrain you are on. These are two important parts of the slacker equation to be sure. But you also want to be sure that you know what your strategy are. Who can you trust? Who can you not? Who do you think will back you up or show even small amounts of solidarity with you if asked, provoked or needed? We will get more into these sorts of questions in other posts but for now just try to think about these questions and how you can use the answers and incorporate them into your slacking.
But going back to the slack-work strategy: You’re going to want to make sure that idf your outside strategy is going to be successful that your inside strategy is going to be as well. A good example of this comes from the movie Office Space (yes, it was only a matter of time until I referenced it). The main character not only trries to do as little as pertaining to work outside his job but also inside. He stares off into space, does meaningless tasks and so on. He makes every slacking action count (more on that in another post) and doesn’t try to blur the line between work and life so much as life and life,
Granted, the one he has within the workplace is necessarily shittier and not as enjoyable as the part where he leaves and indulges in whatever pleasures he deems fit. But it’s certainly a good start to getting himself off of the parasitic and outright draining nature of work to some extent.
Even given all of this though you should still be wary of bosses trying to use the work-life balance ideas to try to coax you into being more comfortable at work. You should always be, as Thaddeus Russell says, in perpetual opposition to the bosses. Ensure that you aren’t taking some sort of deal that actually takes up more of your energy but also happens to just take less time for the boss or yourself. Bosses can use these sorts of tactics to make it seem like you share the same interests but as the comedian George Carlin said it’s all bullshit and it’s bad for ya.
In the long-run even mixing these two strategies in tandem isn’t the end for me. The end is to reduce and replace work with productive play and to blur the lines between living and playing and not working. I am sure that plenty of work-life balance people have their heart in the right place but unfortunately it is only half-way there and even with that extra push that I have advocated here there’s still more to go.
In the meantime though try to slack a good amount of the time you work. Try to see what you can do to make the former be a sizable part of the latter. It doesn’t have to be the majority of the time or even a strong minority if it doesn’t have to be. But try to do it as much as possible and especially when you need it. You’ll be happy that you’re not only giving more balance to your life but moreover giving it back to yourself.
And you deserve it.