Creating a healthy equilibrium between your work and home life has been a common ambition for years, although a less clear-cut synthesis has been gaining popularity. But there is a more holistic modern alternative to aim for, says Josh Levs, writing for Strategy+Business.
A recent backlash against consciously splitting your time into professional and personal boxes, has given way to a fast-emerging work-life integration model. This focuses on allowing one (or multiple) areas of life – including work, home, family, community, personal wellbeing and health – to meld into each other more organically.
INTEGRATION VS BALANCE
Some have observed a generational bias, seeing integration as more of a trend among millennials, while Gen X-ers continue to strive for balance. Both approaches have an important role according to Levs, a business consultant, former broadcast journalist and father.
“Consulting and speaking about work-life issues for businesses and organisations around the world, I take a contrarian view. In fact, we need both balance and integration. And it is vital, for the sake of workers and businesses, to understand the difference,” says Levs.
Millions across the world are now permanently connected to their work via their mobile phones and laptops and are “always available”. Leaders right through to junior workers are finding they have no clear partition between work and personal time and can put in unreasonably long hours.
This clearly illustrates how integration alone can’t provide what people need or are looking for. For instance, while it offers flexibility over where and when you work to get the job done – something many of the best candidates are actively seeking – it’s important to acknowledge that answering business emails during evenings and at weekends seriously eats into the quality time available for family and leisure pursuits.
CULTURE OF BALANCE
This is where the balance element comes into play, according to Levs. In this example it would be about making it clear to employees that they are not expected to answer emails 24 hours a day.
“Businesses benefit from instilling a culture that supports both integration and balance,” says Levs, who advocates developing a culture where taking proper breaks from work and following outside interests is encouraged. Ultimately, the knock-on effect is improved employee productivity and commitment.
Women are commonly the focus of conflict between work and home life, but quotes from the American Psychological Association Review confirm that both sexes reported equal levels of intrusion into family time in extensive studies dating back three decades.
While working as a news journalist, Levs came up with his own balance solutions to feel freer, more relaxed and have time to play with his children.
These are his tips:
- Take easy work email access off your phone.
- Turn on your out-of-office message when leaving the office.
- Tell colleagues to phone you if they need your urgent input – they will have to consider if they really need it immediately.
Work-life balance and work-life integration clearly have their place in the contemporary business world, but that doesn’t have to mean sacrificing one for the other.