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Work-Life Balance or Work-Life Integration?

Written by
George Dickson
George Dickson

Do you really need to balance your work and home life?

For years, mainstream business debates have touched on the importance of work-life balance: How should you be dividing your time at work and your time at home, and how much emphasis should you devote to each of these distinct elements of your life?

The key to happiness in a person’s career used to be finding an appropriate balance between their private life and work-life; making sure to spend enough time on things like family and personal development, while still meeting objectives in the office. As with any balancing act, this strategy becomes increasingly difficult as the demands of both aspects are constantly evolving.

While it is important to have a life outside of your career, the two don’t necessarily have to be at odds with one another.

As the work we do continues to change, so do the ways we approach it. Instead of focusing on a balance between work and life, many business professionals—particularly millennials—are opting for a more integrated approach to work and life.

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Work-life integration

The work-life integration approach is based on an understanding that a person’s professional and personal goals don't have to be completely separate. When your career and life goals align, there’s less of a tendency to assume that one is taking away from the other. In many cases, they can even enrich one another to the extent that the line between personal and professional becomes blurred.

Culture shift

This shift in work culture and philosophy can be attributed in part to an increased focus on purpose-driven work. Instead of working at a job that may indirectly support your personal ambitions through compensation, many modern employees are looking to work with organizations whose goals are tightly integrated with their own.

In a recent interview about the changing role of millennials in the workplace,  Julian Caspari mentioned that 58% of students today say they would take a 15% pay cut to work for a mission-driven organization.

Technological advances

Modern communication has also been a vehicle for change in business. Many employees have instantaneous access to their work and their colleagues. Where once it may have been difficult to manage a work-life integration, today it is simple.

The ability to work remotely and asynchronously eliminates many of the barriers between integrating work and personal time. Employees and their leaders are able to focus less on how long they stay in a seat and more on the work that gets accomplished.

Supporting work-life integration

There are a few easy steps you can take to support a work-life integration approach at your organization—many of which are inexpensive or cost-free.

Autonomy

Give employees the room they need to integrate their work into their lives. Allow them to make decisions about how they approach their work, and when. Think about implementing a flexible work schedule if possible.

Purpose

You can help inspire your team to see the purpose behind their work by showing them the impact their work has on their colleagues, the organization, and the public. When work gains a stronger purpose, it becomes more appealing to integrate into other areas of life.

Implementing tools

There are a host of useful tools you can implement to support a work-life integration mentality. Team communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts Chat give employees unfettered access to their teammates and the crucial assets they need to achieve their objectives.

Whether you personally subscribe to a work-life balance or work-life integration approach, it's crucial to understand that different members of your team will likely have their own views on this issue, and supporting both can provide immense value.

How are you working to support work-life balance or work-life integration?

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Originally published on July 10, 2015 → Last updated March 10, 2022

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George Dickson

George is dedicated to strengthening organizational cultures with thoughtful leadership and frequent recognition. George formerly managed content and community at Bonusly.

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