Skip to Main Content
Ninety logoNinety Presents

Harmony over Balance: Redefining Success in the New Age of Work

"I just love to be out of sync," said no one ever. Our modern fixation on creating a "balance" between our professional and personal lives is driven by the belief (backed by lots of cultural conditioning) that this approach is the magical key to happiness and productivity. But is this continual juggling act in pursuit of balance worthwhile, and does it bring us true fulfillment?

We love the idea of excelling in our careers without sacrificing our personal well-being, hobbies, and relationships. For instance, we might leave work on time to enjoy dinner with family or carve out time for exercise in the middle of a busy work schedule. We try to allocate our time and energy equally across our work and private lives in hopes of maintaining an equilibrium that often feels out of reach.

But rather than separating work and life into opposing forces that need balancing, what if the real magic lies in finding a way to blend them harmoniously?

The Work-Life Balancing Act

For too long, we’ve lived with the notion that work and life exist as separate, opposing entities. This dichotomy is not only false but harmful. At Ninety, we think of work (especially Work with a capital "W") as intrinsic to our well-being, a core part of our identity where we find purpose, contribute to society, and discover personal fulfillment. The idea, or "myth," that work is merely a means to an end, distinct from the "life" it's supposed to support, is unhelpful.

Similarly, our pursuit of "balance" implies a static, unchanging state — a perfect equilibrium where any movement could tip the scales. Life is about growth, change, and transformation. The principles of biology and ecology teach us that stagnation is equivalent to death, while life thrives on evolution and adaptation, not on maintaining a cultural status quo that everyone says we should aspire to. Embracing work and life as a holistic journey allows us to find harmony within the ebb and flow of our complicated lives.

I know I’m not alone in these sentiments. Award-winning strategic communications expert John Julitz advises, “Forget convention. Forget static ‘balance’ as a perfect equilibrium. The days of work-life balance are over. It’s time to move beyond this binary paradigm to life-work harmony — seamlessly integrating your professional path within your broader identity. With creativity, intention, and self-knowledge, you can craft a lifestyle that allows you to thrive in all facets of your life.”

Developing Work-Life Harmony in Your Organization

The outdated pursuit of "work-life balance" has given way in recent years to a more fluid, holistic approach that I call "work-life harmony." This paradigm shift recognizes that our lives are complicated by many overlapping commitments and responsibilities — work, family, hobbies, rest, health, and personal growth.

However, instead of viewing these elements as competitors demanding perfect equilibrium, work-life harmony blends them to enhance our overall well-being. At Ninety, we believe everyone deserves to spend their professional hours doing work that matters. Professional and personal lives should complement and enrich each other rather than compete for time and energy.

Culture plays a pivotal role in all of this, with leaders owning the environments that allow harmony to thrive. Imagine a workplace that empowers new parents with the flexibility to prioritize family time while also offering opportunities for professional growth that accommodate their new stage of life. Team members can now bring their best selves to their roles, contributing more purposefully to the organization and communities they serve.

Companies that promote holistic harmony over fragmented balance — where everyone can truly flourish and become the best version of themselves mentally, physically, and socially — always come out ahead.

Creating a Resonant Workspace

A resonant workspace is one where personal and professional lives are not seen as separate but rather as interconnected, mutually enriching parts of your journey. This approach also recognizes that the skills, experiences, and values nurtured in personal life are major assets to professional pursuits and vice versa.

For instance, a hobby in photography might enhance a marketer's creative thinking and artistic perspective. The patience and growth mindset cultivated through parenting can translate into more empathetic and adaptive leadership skills in the workplace.

Such workplaces should enable team members to blend their personal and professional selves holistically rather than draining resources, which creates stress and impacts mental and/or physical health.

At Ninety, every Wednesday afternoon, we offer "focus time" free from planned or impromptu meetings to invest in personal development goals like learning a new skill, making progress on a Rock, and generally getting smart stuff done. This block of time is sacred for many and celebrates the fact that personal growth is not at odds with, but instead complements, professional development.

A resonant workplace ultimately becomes a place that nurtures the entire individual — bringing together personal interests, experiences, and aspirations with professional roles, accountabilities, and responsibilities to boost impact and fulfillment. Cultivating this mindset is a win-win for all involved: it keeps our Ideal Stakeholders, especially our team members, satisfied. 

The Keystone of Work-Life Harmony

Leaders who champion work-life harmony understand its power to drive meaningful change within their organizations. By fostering an environment that encourages individuals to bring their best selves to work, this approach is often the foundation of a high-trust, agreements-based culture where personal and professional lives align. Embracing work-life harmony enhances team engagement, innovation, and effectiveness overall.

To illustrate this point, consider a software engineer whose passion for improvisational theater could bring fresh creative energy and enthusiasm for building upon ideas with their team. The varied perspectives you gain from personal pursuits can promote new ways of problem-solving and collaboration in the workplace. By allowing team members to connect their outside passions to their professional roles, leaders multiply the diverse creative viewpoints that can be leveraged for innovation.

As Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Meta, states, "Bring your whole self to work. I don’t believe we have a professional self Monday through Friday and a real self the rest of the time. It is all professional and it is all personal."

Leaders who embrace this truth and foster work-life harmony create environments where individuals thrive by showing up authentically, ultimately driving greater team performance.

Striving for Harmony, Not Just Balance

This fundamental shift from a balance-focused view to a harmony-centric approach represents a powerful transformation for business in the twenty-first century and beyond. It creates a win-win situation where work and personal life support and improve each other rather than competing for your time and energy.

Research shows that there are also significant benefits (in terms of mental health, job satisfaction, and organizational success) that emerge from integrating personal and professional growth with vocational skills. The mix of diverse team member backgrounds sparks new ideas that drive innovation, solve challenges, and create stronger connections. Companies focused on harmony also reduce stress by offering plenty of paid time off, flexible schedules, and benefits that put people first. By prioritizing well-being and work-life integration, companies access their workforce's peak creativity, engagement, and productivity — recognizing this ethical approach as the highest form of capital for a highly developed/evolved company.

Companies like Google and Patagonia demonstrate how focusing on employee happiness can lead to big changes. They offer benefits like on-site childcare, quiet work times, generous parental leave, and opportunities to volunteer, creating an environment where team members feel satisfied personally and professionally. This approach results in more innovation, keeps top workers around longer, and brings a strong sense of purpose that shines through in their products and services.

Beyond Work-Life Dualism

The rise of flexible schedules, remote work, and constant digital connectivity is reshaping the quest for work-life balance into a more dynamic pursuit of work-life harmony. In today's complex world, trying to maintain a strict separation between professional and personal lives often leads to a zero-sum game, where improvements in one area seem to detract from another. Instead, embracing work-life harmony invites a perspective where work and personal life complement and enrich one another, moving from competition to symbiosis.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella captures this point when she says, "We think about productivity through collaboration and output metrics, but well-being is one of the most important pieces of productivity."

By integrating personal values and well-being into our professional roles, we not only increase individual satisfaction but also bolster organizational performance. This revised mindset helps people view their work as part of who they are, fostering a culture that's supportive, flexible, and respectful. This approach not only adapts to modern life but also serves as a catalyst for resilience and innovation, ultimately transforming work into a more rewarding and integral part of life.

Doing Work That Matters

As we navigate into the New Age of Work, the shift toward work-life harmony emerges not just as a trend but as a fundamental change in how we view the integration of our professional and personal lives.

This evolution promises to redefine success in both spheres, envisioning a future where work, especially Work (with a capital "W"), is not a means to an end but a vital component of a fulfilling life. As our personal experiences boost our work, our job successes should make us happier and help us grow. This whole-person approach fosters environments where individuals thrive, supported by organizations that are adaptable and resilient, and act as pioneers of innovation and social responsibility.

The promise of work-life harmony is a more cohesive, satisfying existence where the boundaries between work and life blur, not to create confusion, but to enhance the quality and meaning of both. As we embrace this shift, we open the door to a future where individuals and organizations alike can focus, align, and thrive toward reaching their full potential in sustainable, equitable, and deeply rewarding ways.

Are you ready to take the next step in your leadership journey? Subscribe to my Ambitious Founder newsletter to join the conversation.