As an HR pro, I’ve read tons of articles about work-life balance over the years. It’s a major buzzword that companies love to throw around when talking about their culture and employee perks. But what does it really mean? And how can you achieve it? 

For a long time, I thought work-life balance meant we needed to figure out how to divide time equally between a job (and all the associated tasks and goals) and personal life activities. 

The dictionary even defines balance as “the amount of time you spend doing your job compared with the amount of time you spend with your family doing things you enjoy.” But that definition assumes you don’t enjoy your job, which isn’t always the case. 

Instead of thinking about it as a strict balance, I’ve come to see work-life balance as being confident in your choices and about where you’re spending your time. 

It’s about doing what feels right and fulfilling in the moment without feeling guilty. 

Let’s say you decide to stay an extra 15 minutes at work to help a customer or coworker. If that’s a conscious choice you made, and you’re okay with it, then that can feel like balance in that moment. It doesn’t mean work is more important than family – it means you choose to prioritize something at work for a bit. 

The key is being intentional about your choices today and knowing you can make different choices tomorrow. Maybe you’ll leave early to spend time with family. Maybe you’ll focus on or prioritize other personal aspects of your life today. It’s all about being present and satisfied with how you’re allocating your time and energy — no matter if that’s work or life. 

Bonnie Hammer, the esteemed Vice Chair of NBCUniversal, offers invaluable insights on navigating change and achieving work-life balance in her book “15 Lies Women Are Told at Work… and the Truth We Need to Succeed.”  

Drawing from her 40-year career in the ever-changing media industry, where she weathered seven corporate takeovers, Hammer emphasizes the importance of adaptability and understanding the nature of each transformation. 

When faced with a corporate change, Hammer advises taking the time to comprehend the new culture, tone, and expectations. “It’s beyond reading the room—it’s reading the culture,” she says. Navigating change involves adapting to new rules and power dynamics, which requires effective communication from managers to motivate their teams through the transition. 

Regarding work-life balance, Hammer challenges the traditional notion of dividing time equally between work and personal life. Instead, she encourages women to make confident choices about how they allocate their time and energy without feeling guilty. If you consciously decide to stay late at work to help a colleague, for instance, that can feel like balance in the moment, as long as you’re satisfied with your choice. 

Hammer advises scheduling regular “must-have” family time into your calendar and treating it as non-negotiable.  

When you find passion and enthusiasm in your personal and professional lives, you won’t constantly stress about balance—you’ll simply make positive choices about how to spend your time without regret or guilt. 

My advice? Talk to your boss about leaving some tasks for the next day if needed.