What is Work Life Integration?
The future of work is a term that you'll see scrolling through your LinkedIn newsfeed. It refers to a variety of different topics like AI and Blockchain. But in reality the future of work is here. The way we work is changing. New generations entering the workplace. Pandemics that are forcing us to shift to remote work. Even for me as a Millennial I feel the change - and it's a rapid change. If employers want to stay relevant they need to accept the fact that work life balance is somewhat outdated. Sure, work life balance and work life integration sound very similar, but knowing the difference between the two will change your life. So out with work life balance and in with work life integration. Work and life should be an integrated experience. "Do what you love and love what you do!" as they say.
As a startup founder and serial entrepreneur I have never really fit into the 40 hour work week mold. I work way more than 40 hours and usually have multiple projects, products, or even companies that I am working on all at once. My co-workers are a lot of my really good friends. We can be out for dinner or grabbing drinks on the weekend and still enjoy discussing the cool things happening at the company. I've found that there is so much overlap between my work and life that integration works better than a balance.
Work Life Balance Challenges
Work-life balance was a term that started getting a lot of buzz back in the 70's as those baby boomers were trying to balance their professional and personal lives. [Full disclosure, I wasn't even born yet, so I'm doing my research on the history of work-life balance]. There are a lot of work life balance challenges though. The working world is changing - scratch that - the entire world is changing. 9-5 in a cube farm isn't the only way to work. Employees now want and need options like flexible hours, remote work, and unlimited vacation. I love what I do and most of the time it doesn't even feel like work. So instead of completely shutting off work at 5PM on Friday and picking it up again on Monday morning, work and life are integrated for me. Sure, I balance work and life, but there isn't a clean cut line that differentiates the too. My work is my life and my life is my work. Hence, work-life integration.
Work Life Integration Vs. Work Life Balance
Work life balance is focused on the word balance. This makes it seem like work and life should be separate and it creates competition between the two. It makes it seem like work and life are two separate worlds. That does not work in this day and age and is the key difference between work life integration and work life balance. Your personal life and professional life are not separate anymore. They are so blurred together that one day you could be taking shots at Tao in Vegas with your "boss" on vacation and the next day you could be in the office with that same person giving a presentation. Technology is growing exponentially and gives us access to everyone at all times.
UC Berkeley shares that they use the term Work/Life Integration Instead of Work/Life Balance. They do this because work/life balance "evokes a binary opposition between work and life". They state that work/life integration creates more synergies between all areas of life. This could include things like work, family, community, well-being, and health. They give examples of things like remote work, flexible schedules, and support for child and elder care at UC Berkeley help with Work/Life integration.
Change Your Life
I do some public speaking and podcast interviews and I'm surprised about the amount of people that find the term of work life integration to be "new". But, when I explain work life integration, it makes a lot of sense to the audience. When I was trying hard to obtain work life balance, I felt like a failure. Always trying to get a balance, but never achieving this. There isn't a perfect balance. With work life integration I can acknowledge that. Sure, there are days where I completely disconnect from work. I actually try to pick one day, usually Saturday or Sunday, where I try to not even open my laptop. It's a nice reset.
Stop calling it work life balance because there is no such thing as a balance anymore. These two worlds of work and play are not separate, nor should they be. Most humans want meaning, fulfillment, and to have fun in what they do. That's what matters. Work life integration helps you achieve that goal. Think about what your work life integration currently looks like? What do you find more meaning and fulfillment in? For many people, the answer is life. Work doesn't even come close to this. Organizations need to start thinking of employees as people. They need to create flexible work environments that support you in all aspects of life, not just work. A "career path" is more of a "life path". If your employer isn't open to this, there are many out there that are. I'd recommend starting to find an employer that will support you in life, not just work. Change your life.
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