The quest to establish a healthy work-life balance has been ongoing for decades. It seems to be a never ending struggle as our schedules get busier and more demanding. If you find it impossible to strike the perfect balance (don’t we all?), you might want to explore the idea of work-life integration. It will allow you to play to your strengths, connect with yourself on a deeper level, and take care of yourself and your loved ones while successfully fulfilling your work responsibilities; all in a way that feels natural and authentic.
What is it, exactly?
The familiar image of a scale is what most people think of when they hear the phrase “work-life balance”. According to the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, that image “creates a sense of competition between the two elements.” Whereas, “Work/Life Integration instead is an approach that creates more synergies between all areas that define “life”: work, home/family, community, personal well-being, and health.”
Work-life balance creates separation between your professional and personal lives, creating strict structures that don’t allow for overlap. Work-life integration allows for more freedom within those boundaries, utilizing things like technology, to create a more flexible flow.
Benefits of Work-Life Integration
One of the biggest benefits of work-life integration is that you get to create a system that is unique to you. There’s no one-size-fits-all here. This type of integration allows you to incorporate your strengths, your specific life situation, your family, your desires, etc. Everything that is uniquely you becomes the foundation of your schedule.
Another benefit is that, since this system is built around you, it allows for self-care in a huge way. We all know taking care of our physical, mental and emotional health is important, but it usually gets pushed aside by all of the demands we face every day. Work-life integration allows you to work in a way that naturally incorporates self-care by not forcing you to work against yourself or neglect your well-being.
So how do I do it?
The Fast Company put out an article by Dean Douglas that says, “Work-life integration starts with analyzing how you work the best.” Be honest with yourself and take some time to consider how you work most efficiently. Do you prefer to work alone or in groups? Do you need structure or do you work best when left to your own direction? Can you work effectively at home or is it easier to go into the office every day? Does your life require the flexibility to do both?
Once you have a clear idea of how you work best and what your preferences are, be creative about finding ways to shape your work around those ideas. Maybe you work in a very open office environment and you find you actually need more privacy to focus. It can be that your family or loved ones need your presence in the home more, and you can do some work from there part of the week. Move things around in your schedule so that it fits your lifestyle and begin to lean in that direction.