In an era where everyone with an internet connection is reachable 24/7, setting up healthy boundaries between work and life becomes even more difficult. This is the rationale for “work-life balance” to morph into this whole new thing called “work-life integration”. Some suggest merging them is the rational way to go. However, is there any difference between balance and integration apart from their dictionary descriptions? Is work-life integration the only way to go and should we throw the term “balance” into the bin?
Originally when we think of work-life balance we think of the dichotomy between life and work. Work being the 8 to 10 hours we spent at our desks and life is those moments in between. Forbes debunks the idea that balance should be categorized into how many hours each of us puts into the category of “life” and “work”.
One reason why this is false is how technology has interwoven itself in the lives of workers everywhere. Alctraining.com.au states that, 52% of workers still check their email outside of work hours.
Work-life integration is defined to be the finely interwoven harmony between life and work. A picturesque idea wherein workers can send emails while on the beach and bring their kids to work via video calls. There is no more dichotomy as there is only one concept which is integrated into one.
Work-life integration can get tricky though. Integration is all well and good in theory, but like all else, it differs so much more when put into practice. It challenges the concept of a 9 to 5 working hours for some, creating a less rigid environment, but it can also go sour if left unchecked. Without a line between work and life, what’s stopping us from being on a metaphorical desk all day, every day?
Here are some ways in which we can successfully accomplish a fulfilling morph of balance and integration.
The first thing you need to figure out is your preference. Do you prefer to work on your desk with a rigid schedule or do you prefer to seamlessly weave work with the other areas in your life?
The next is to find a company or a work regimen, whether it be full-time or freelance, that will provide you with the type of life that will fit you. This is tricky because while some industries can allow this, some cannot. Banking, for example, has an industry norm of working in front of a desk for a rigid 5 days a week.
Boundaries, like everywhere else, is healthy. Even as you weave between “work” and “life” there should be some things considered “sacred”. A family vacation or a maternity leave for example. It’s important to have a line that separates exclusive time for yourself that won’t be tainted by emails, phone calls, or messages from work.
A healthy and open communication between management and the employees would do wonders in creating peace of mind for everyone. A system that is well disseminated would compose a smooth sailing ship of expectations and responsibilities.
Whatever we call it, “balance” or “integration”, we all want the same thing: the ability to live a life that is fulfilling, without one aspect ruling over the others, after all work is only one aspect of life. Morphing the traditional description of work-life balance and work-life integration is perhaps a route we might want to venture into.
We have to take control of how much we integrate work outside of the office and how much time we spend inside it. Picking balance over integration or vice versa without making exemptions might do more harm than good. Mixing them to tailor fit into your life seems like the wisest thing to do.
Ritlop, Rachel. “Work-Life Balance Vs. Work-Life Integration, Is There Really A Difference?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 13 Oct. 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelritlop/2016/12/18/work-life-balance-vs-work-life-integration-is-there-really-a-difference/#2cd0caa03727.
Lotie Mercado is an Editorial Assistant at WorkWise Asia. She loves literature, art and films.