Work-life balance is not the key to fulfilment. Social intelligence is
We're all supposed to strive for a work-life balance. But is it something that we can actually accomplish? Increasingly, we're seeing the myth of work-life balance busted as we experience work in new and hybrid ways. Home and life are no longer separate entities. And according to counselling psychologist and social intelligence expert Dr Sandeep Atre, nor should they be.
"Work-life balance is nothing. Instead, we need to think of it in terms of work-life vindication. They're not two separate entities to be balanced — they flow into each other," says Dr Sandeep Atre.
When we're not fulfilled in work, we're not fulfilled in life
We spend so much time at work, that if we try to gain our fulfilment in the hours when we're not at our desks, we'll have hardly any time left. Anyone who has spent any time in unfulfilling work knows just how true this is.

"Workplaces are an extension of what people look for in their personal lives as well," says Dr Sandeep Atre. "We can't find fulfilment outside of work, or purely inside it.
So how can we make work more fulfilling?
Ultimately, fulfilling work meets our base intrinsic needs as human beings.

"We're called social animals for a reason," says Sandeep. "We have an intrinsic desire to connect with each other. If we don't feel this we malfunction."

We know that we work at our best when we're sleeping well, exercising and getting enough energy to push through the 3pm sugar crash — but our needs are not only physical. We also need to prioritise our social needs.

In our Adaptive Global Leaders & Super Teams program, Dr Sandeep Atre coaches leaders and high-performers to improve their social intelligence (and foster better connection and fulfilment at work) through a three-part model:

  1. Awareness of what is going on inside themselves, where there is fulfilment and where there is room for improvement.

  2. Attunement to their team, the needs of those around them and areas where social cohesion may be lacking.

  3. Adaptive thinking — the skillset required to utilise the first two skills, be responsive and make appropriate decisions to improve social cohesion.
"When we buy a washing machine it comes with a manual," says Sandeep. "But our most-used machine — our brain — doesn't come with a manual. We have to learn how it works and how best to use it."
Fulfilling work benefits organisations, too
The benefits of fulfilling work don't only extend to individuals. When we're fulfilled at work, we're more motivated, energised and are able to achieve more.

According to Sandeep, "If that connection is missing in workplaces, gets lost, or is overpowered by lots of noise, people tend to just get along with the work. But they never produce quality work. They never excel."

Workplaces that have low social intelligence operate more like machines. They can get the rote work done and meet their basic minimum functioning, but they lack drive, creativity and innovation.

Peter Drucker, the founder of modern management, has a quote that sums this up to a tee: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast."

It doesn't matter how good your strategy is. If you don't have the social intelligence within your organisation to foster fulfilling work, you won't be able to excel.

"It can come in gradual changes," says Sandeep Atre, "but if we don't foster social intelligence, our workplaces — and our lives — are grim. Workplaces have a responsibility to enable connection and a fulfilling environment."

After all, fulfilling work makes for a fulfilling life, too.

Workplaces are an extension of what people look for in their personal lives as well," says Dr Sandeep Atre. "We can't find fulfilment outside of work, or purely inside it."