Work-Life Balance Doesn’t Exist


How and why to aim for work-life integration instead

Neha Tandon, TechnologyAdvice

In today’s increasingly online world, working from home has grown in popularity. However, for most of us, what happens more and more often is that we forget to leave our work at the office and bring it home with us.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics said, last year, 42.8 percent of Americans engaged in work or work-related activities on holidays and weekends. According to an April 2015 study commissioned by Workfront, 57 percent of employees think technology has ruined the definition of a family dinner. And of those, 60 percent blame bad bosses for the negative impact on work-life balance.

The problem is that now the flexibility to work at home turns into an issue of work-life balance. For this reason, work-life integration is not only an important and healthy alternative that some can choose to focus on but a necessity for all employees and employers to consider.


What is work-life integration?

Work-life integration is different because while work-life balance asks that one separate the two worlds, integration beckons us to put both work and life together in a way that serves each other. It is a way to see our lives as holistic and all-encompassing and is said to be more fulfilling. For example, companies that offer unlimited vacation days use the work-life integration philosophy by trusting employees to get work done and take vacations to recharge. There must, of course, be a feeling of mutual trust between employer and employee in this case.


How does it help me?

Work-life integration offers maximum flexibility for those with a family. A working parent who adopts work-life integration can drive their children to school every day, cook dinner for their family, and go to work or work from home in between these important tasks. When one of the company benefits is flexible work hours, the employee doesn’t have to go through the hassle of entering every doctor’s appointment or work-from-home day into the HR software. That makes life easier for the employee and the HR team.

Work-life integration is not only for those with families. For those who are young and single, this lifestyle comes with endless choices and options. There is no need to take full vacation days for a trip with family. Because the mutual foundation of trust that says “work is already a priority”, everyone understands that emails and chat messages will get checked and urgent matters will be handled. In fact, a 2008 study published in the Harvard Business Review found 94 percent of 1,000 professionals surveyed said they work 50 hours or more per week. Yet, achieving work-life integration was still possible “when the assumption that everyone needs to be always available was collectively challenged, not only could individuals take time off, but their work actually benefited.”


Start with your goals

In our increasingly globalized world, business happens at all hours of the day every day. Work-life integration means that we available for the most important tasks and leading to a more alert employee base.

If your employer does not offer endless vacations, work-life integration is still an option. Anyone with the right organizational skills and restraint can find the routine that balances home and office.

Work, home, community, and the self are the four pillars that allow us to identify what is best for ourselves. Make sure that you are fulfilled in all four spheres of your life by setting goals in each of these parts of your world. Write your goals down. Don’t worry if there is overlap between your goals. The boundaries between work and home-life are becoming increasingly thin, so take steps to increase personal development across all spheres.


Bring it to work

The next step is to create a supportive and trusting environment in which an integrative workspace can grow. There must be ways to hold employees accountable and responsible for their work without physically being in the same space at all times. This can be done by setting goals for each day, week, or month depending on the type of business.

Overall, the idea of integration is up-and-coming for a reason. According to a 2015 Employee Confidence Survey from Glassdoor, 89 percent of millennials (workers aged 18-34) prefer benefits and perks over pay raises. The overarching theme here is trust. Work and personal life no longer have to compete. The beauty of technology is that we are always accessible, and for that reason, there is no reason for the two worlds to compete. Employees are offered flexibility and time with family and for their hobbies. Employers are given the comfort of always having their team on the clock. Both work together on a foundation of mutually beneficial trust.


About the Author

Neha Tandon is a writer for TechnologyAdvice. She is a graduate student of journalism at Syracuse University. With a background in marketing, PR, and advertising, her true passion is for business journalism.