What Work Life Integration really means

Author: Smita Chipalkatti

Most Gen X’ers like myself were exposed to “work life balance” as a concept early on and understood it well. It meant sharing equal time between work life (outside of home) and your personal life. However, according to Stewart Friedman -A professor at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in his HBR article (2014) wrote, ‘Work Life Balance’ is a misguided metaphor because it assumes that we must always make trade-offs from among the four main aspects of our lives: Work or school, Home or family, Community (friends, neighbours, religious or social groups), and Self (mind, body, spirit). Then came the new buzzword ‘Work-life Integration’

Unlike the compartmentalized nature of work-life balance where you have clear divides of time and energy, work-life Integration, was all about blending both work and personal life into one entity. The key is making sure these different aspects of your life are not at odds but flow together to create steadiness in your day. Like a ‘can-do’ attitude. For e.g., Women being able to easily pursue work and motherhood is possible thanks to work life integration.

Post pandemic, work from home has gotten the recognition it rightly deserves. It is no secret then, that more and more people want to work from home. After all, the idea of not having to leave your house and waste time in traffic especially in maximum cities is appealing! The upside of working from home is that you can manage your workday and work environment more flexibly. A flexible workday can seamlessly integrate one’s workouts, kids’ chores, the home, and social schedules without losing out on productivity or work matters. Work from home is a fantastic testament to what work life integration truly means – a great new change on the horizon- that is gaining popularity fast!

Technology makes virtual work possible, and is responsible for so many women getting back into the workforce today. But, it needs a discipline as well. One must be able to pivot back and forth from their ‘home/parent modes’ to their work avatars seamlessly. Boundaries are a must and it helps to recruit your family or surroundings as support. (A little support goes a long way!)

Here are some strategies to successful work life integration:

  1. Know yourself well – your strengths & weaknesses: What strengths can you leverage? what do you need to work on? Understand and know your limitations. Set goals accordingly for yourself. Ensure you complete them and that they are doable in the time allotted.
  2. Manage your time wisely when working from home: For example, you might set a specific time every day to start your workday, so that you do not have to work all day or leave the house after work. Create a schedule and stick to it. It will help you get more done.
  3. Track your peak times of productivity and prioritise – Observe the times you are most efficient and can focus easily to get all tasks done. It especially helps to build your other daily responsibilities around these hours so as to be productive each day. Design your day around this productivity burst – as work should never suffer on account of being home!
  4. Enlist the help and support of family and peers: It’s important to realise that a “can-do” attitude alone doesn’t cut it. However, when it is in tandem with recruiting the right support (family, friends, peers) it goes a long way in making you successful. Especially for parents with young kids – there is literally a pile of work waiting for them during the day. Hiring that extra hand or distributing chore schedules with your partner/husband can make most work from home scenarios a success.
  5. Don’t forget to unplug and relax from time to time – Integrating your personal life alongside work means making room for kids, chores and other miscellaneous responsibilities -packing your day way beyond ‘just work’, and can be overwhelming. A break during these hours might provide the necessary intervention that can facilitate much needed rejuvenation. It’s a great way to recharge and boost productivity!

So, in a nutshell, work-life integration isn’t about finding that elusive ‘perfect’ balance between work and life. It is about finding a balance that works for YOU specifically. It looks different for everyone, is adaptable and changes over time as your circumstances and needs change. Happy holistic living!