The term “work-life balance” has been thrown about and chased after for the better part of 40 years. And yet, it remains elusive. In recent months, especially with the work and personal sphere colliding, this term has been dominating the internet. Do a simple search, and you will find a massive spike in the number of articles written on this. People are at a loss on how to manage their lives when work starts invading their private spaces.
Work-life balance loosely refers to everything from the need for more time to self-care. This pursuit, however, assumes a separation between work and life. In today’s context, that seems like a false divide, given that work has been pervasive since the widespread use of cellphones. Who is genuinely spared from the call from their bosses once it passes at 6 PM? Work is already a part of life. On the other hand, this does not mean that life is a zero-sum game, where you lose out on self-care just because you work more. To counter these two problematic premises, work-life integration has become more prevalent in recent years.
According to UC Berkeley’s Hass School of Business, work-life integration is “an approach that creates more synergies between all areas that define ‘life’: work, home/family, community, personal well-being, and health.” The concept of work-life integration posits gentle pivots rather than hard boundaries between different areas of life. This means that you can work from 9 AM to noon, pivot into a gym session before hopping back into work after you pick your child up from school. The flexibility offered is a deal for those juggling multiple responsibilities, as it seems like the best way to have it all.
However, one has to be careful when pursuing work-life integration. This is especially true for entrepreneurs. This is because you might end up integrating work into every area of your life. Are you doing work during dinner time? You may find yourself immersed continuously in work and neglecting other priorities. This is because our work responsibilities will always feel more urgent than our everyday needs. There are no due dates on that hug bedtime story for your child. Stephen Covey writes “Some of us get so used to the adrenaline rush of handling crises that we become dependent on it for a sense of excitement and energy.” How then can you make work-life integration work for you?
- Create a Schedule
It might feel strange to schedule activities like “family dinner” or “bedtime stories”, but doing it is your commitment to making them happen. It blocks out the time in your day for these activities, to ensure that you set time aside to focus on priorities outside of work. It’s also less likely that you will blow off your “appointment” with your children.
- Communicate with Your Partner
Please don’t spend all the time building your schedule, then realize it doesn’t compliment whatever your partner has planned. Make sure you discuss the needs of your family with him or her. This way, you can align on the greatest needs of your family, making life richer, not harder.
- Commit to some boundaries
Your mind and body need rest from work to recharge. You need to set time aside each day to unplug from job responsibilities. Block out thoughts of work and focus on the people and activities that matter most to you.
Work-life integration is a helpful framework to fill our lives with meaningful work and relationships. The secret lies in the execution. With practice, you can also be a little closer to having it all.