Trying to balance work and life has been an ongoing pursuit since the term work-life balance was coined almost 40 years ago. Since then, it has come to mean many different things, such as spending more time with the family, finding a meaningful hobby outside of work, and disconnecting completely from the office while on vacation.
Today the concept of work-life balance has been replaced with the term work-life integration. But what does work-life integration mean and how are they different?
Work-life integration is a gentler approach than work-life balance because at the center of the latter is the idea that work and life are separate entities and boundaries need to be established to not let one influence the other and vice versa. This separation is completely artificial and makes the balancing act even harder.
With work-life integration, work is viewed as an inseparable part of life along with family, community, personal well-being, and health. Ideally, all these aspects would be tended to and cared for in order to lead a balanced and fulfilling life.
So, implementing work-life integration in your daily routine would look something like this:
Have breakfast with your family and then work remotely from home until noon. Hit the gym before lunch for a satisfying workout, and then go get lunch with a friend. After that, head to the office for a meeting and, once that is over, you can go pick up your kids at school. Once you are all back home you can respond to emails for a few hours and then cook dinner together with your spouse.
Of course, this is not a perfect system and it is important to customize it according to your needs. This means that it is important to keep track of how much time you are spending on each area of your life because what usually happens is that work is integrated too much into life, while the rest of life isn’t really integrated into work.
Whether you find yourself checking your work emails at the treadmill, or brainstorming ideas for your next presentation while you are having dinner with your family, the point is that you give each area of your life the space it needs.
A great way to solve this is to create a detailed schedule and stay committed to it. And if you have a partner, make sure that your schedules complement each other. Other ideas to help you on your work-life integration quest include finding a place you can work from that is not necessarily home (i.e. a coworking space), ideally a place that is close to where you live to reduce commute time and to make it easier to weave in life during busy workdays.
As technology continues to blur the line between work and life, it’s no longer realistic for people to keep one entirely separate from the other; rather they need to find ways to seamlessly integrate them, creating a synergy between them.