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What Is Work-Life Integration?
Work-Life Balance has been the name of the game for decades, but in our post-Covid world it's becoming clear that the goal should be work-life integration.
Since the 1970s the phrase “work-life balance” has been used to describe the way individuals manage their time between professional and personal obligations. And while the goal for many years has been to achieve some sort of “separate but equal” balance between professional and personal responsibilities, it’s become more apparent - especially in our post-Covid world - that completely separating the two is nearly impossible.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at where work-life balance started, where it’s going, and why work-life integration is the new name of the game. Keep reading!
When Did Work-Life Balance Start To Fail?
The rise of personal communication devices (mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) made the waters between work and life a bit murkier. For those of us working traditional 9-5 jobs, it became easier for our employers and customers to get to us anytime, anywhere. And as many people took advantage of a more connected digital landscape and embarked on freelance careers, it became even more important to be connected at all times.
While the goal of a freelance career, for many people, is to be able to set their own schedule and add more flexibility to their day, it’s also created a situation where we’re juggling professional responsibilities while simultaneously undertaking personal ones. For example, you might be answering work emails while sitting with your child at the doctor’s office. Or answering client calls while in the parking lot of your yoga studio.
As expectations on employees, freelancers, and individuals have increased over time, it’s become more and more difficult to find that elusive “balance.” We’re all trying to do all the things, all the time, and many people are experiencing feelings of burn-out and overwhelm in record numbers.
Where Does Work-Life Integration Come In?
Work and life - especially in this work from home, post-Covid landscape - have become too intertwined to be able to “balance” them. There’s no possibility, for most of us, of drawing a clear line between the two and calling it a day.
Trying to “balance” the two can lead to a constant tug-of-war on your time. The clock strikes 5pm and you want to be done for the day, but you’ve still got an overflowing inbox that needs to be cleared or a report to be wrapped up. Meanwhile, you also have dinner to make, a dog to walk, laundry to fold, and a lawn to cut.
Integrating the two, however, can lead to a less stressful, more seamless flow to your day. Rather than trying to keep the professional and personal completely separate, only working on certain things during certain time frames, allowing your daily responsibilities and needs to dictate your schedule as they ebb and flow means you can handle tasks at a time that makes sense for you.
By practicing work-life integration you can decide to fold your laundry in between meetings, or handle your emails in the evenings once the kids are in bed. You can pop out to attend a school play or hit the gym without feeling guilty about cutting out of work early because you’ve built actual flexibility into your daily life.