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October 29, 2018

Work-Life Integration: What Is It and How Do You Get It?

Life at Perforce
Community

Work-life balance has been a common buzzword for the last few decades. It defined the need to divide time between work and personal life. However, the concept was created before the internet, email, and smartphones. With the advancement of technology, it’s becoming obsolete.

Today’s buzzword: work-life integration. It sounds similar and the goal is the same, so how is it different? Work-life balance required the separation of work and home life. But work-life integration recognizes that in today’s world, separation is difficult to achieve. And for some people – especially those who work in technology – it may be an impossible task. The technology we have now allows us to be constantly connected, and, to an extent, it’s made the 9-to-5 work day a thing of the past.          

When it comes to integrating our work and personal life, smartphones have played a large role. Syncing your work email to your phone means that you can check it anytime, anywhere. But how is that constant connection reflected in your company’s policies? Most businesses regularly survey their employees’ satisfaction, and work-life balance is a common issue that they try to address.

Finding Work-Life Integration

We asked some of our staff how they integrate work and life and what it means to them. When asked whether they thought work-life integration was attainable and sustainable, Monica Bajaj, Director of Server Engineering, responded that she thought it was attainable but that it’s up to the individual to make it sustainable and figure out what that balance means to you.

Tanya Gaylord-Weir, Senior Sales Operations Administrator, noted that it also depends on your employer and whether they create an office culture and environment that fosters that kind of integration.

Our staff thought that by trying to achieve work-life balance, you create two opposing forces. Steve Jezierski, Vice President of Sales, said, “With work-life integration there is no struggle, you’re free to blend work and life together as you see fit.”

Leah Humphries, Technical Marketing Writer, put it this way, “I don’t really think work-life balance exists in the technical age. We live in an environment where competition is high, and there is an increased demand on employees to produce. And, teams are scattered across the globe, often requiring meetings outside of standard work hours and being available whenever questions arise. Without integrating your work and personal life, this would be overwhelming.”

What Our Staff Thinks

“My personal goal is to integrate work and life, since I’m an employee, a mom, and an active volunteer across other professional organizations.” – Monica Bajaj (Also check out Monica’s LinkedIn post on Being a Female Leader.)

What Employers Can Do

The classic 9-to-5 workday simply isn’t a practical expectation anymore. Developing policies that clearly reflect the realities of life today will result in happier, more engaged employees.

  • Allow flexible work hours. Get away from cubicle dwelling, and recognize that work can be done from anywhere, at any time.
  • Offer flexible PTO options and working vacations.
  • Set and communicate clear goals and expectations. If both parties agree and the work is getting done, then everyone wins.

What Our Staff Thinks

“Work-life integration is symbiotic. I’m still a parent while I’m at work, and I’m still a professional when I’m at home.” – Tanya Gaylord-Weir

What You Can Do at Home

Just like at work, having clear responsibilities and expectations at home can reduce stress and relationship strain.

  • Use shared calendars to keep track of appointments and key dates.
  • Try meal planning or setting aside time to prep ingredients for the week’s meals.
  • Communicate regularly and clearly with your partner about what needs to get done.
  • Share household responsibilities, like chores, child care, and pet care.

What Our Staff Thinks

“I put screen limits on my phone and set hours when all apps are powered down. This allows me to detach. I also integrate both my work and personal calendars.” – Leah Humphries

Leverage Technology

While technology has allowed us to be constantly connected to work, it can also be used to streamline schedules and easily share information in our personal lives.

  • Shared family calendars or integrated work and personal calendars can be used to keep track of personal or family appointments as well as work tasks.
  • Check email from anywhere. Smartphones have made it possible to check email at work, at home, or the waiting room of your dentist – no cubicle required.
  • Shut down notifications, use apps to track screen time, or use “do not disturb” mode to limit screen time and periodically unplug.
  • Use shared documents or shared task apps to manage grocery lists, to dos, errands, and chores.
  • Staying somewhat connected (even on vacation) can save the stress of returning to a full inbox after a relaxing trip.

What Our Staff Thinks

“I think you have to prioritize everything in life, whether at home or at work, because everyone’s time is limited.” – Steve Jezierski

Remember to Schedule Your Time Wisely

In order to integrate your time without burnout, remember that taking personal time is important and necessary for you to be your best self and the best employee you can be.

  • Have a set time to unplug and be technology-free. For example, during family dinners, vacations, and time with friends.
  • Have regular check-ins to connect with your partner, children, other family, and friends. And make sure to regularly see friends and family (in person!).
  • Exercise regularly. Schedule time on your calendar or set reminders on your phone to get active.
  • Make time for self-care. This can be as easy as going for a walk outdoors or as luxurious as a 90-minute massage.

Integrating work and life doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. In fact, by using some of the tools and techniques mentioned here, you should feel able to manage your full, integrated life.