Work-life balance has become a popular term in modern society as people strive to find the perfect balance between their careers and personal lives. But what if there are better goals to pursue? Should we aim for more realistic expectations by embracing work-life integration instead of balance, and what’s the difference?
Work-life integration is an approach to your daily life that involves holistically blending elements of your career and personal life to achieve better harmony. Work-life integration assumes that work is not the villain needing restraint – it’s a recognition that every aspect of our calling matters, so managing these different dimensions of our life is vital to happiness. In this article, we explore the concept of work-life integration and compare it with the traditional idea of work-life balance. We’ll also examine how this approach can help you achieve personal success both professionally and personally.
Is work-life balance unrealistic?
Most of us have an idealised version of what work-life balance is. We imagine a life where we have enough time for our family, hobbies and careers. We picture ourselves being able to juggle everything without ever feeling overwhelmed or stressed – to keep every element of our life in harmony at all times.
Unfortunately, this notion of work-life balance is unrealistic for most people and can bring about unnecessary feelings of guilt. The truth is, it’s impossible to achieve a perfect balance between all aspects of your life. And even if you can achieve it, it’s often temporary.
It’s impossible to separate your work and personal life altogether
No matter how hard you try, there will always be some overlap between your work and personal life. As humans, we don’t live in silos – we integrate every aspect of whom God created us to be into what we call ‘life’.
Your priorities continually change
When you think you’ve finally achieved a work-life balance, something throws everything off kilter. A new baby, a sick relative, or a significant opportunity at work can all disrupt the delicate balance you’ve worked so hard to achieve. It is impossible to keep every aspect of your life in perfect harmony at every moment.
Why is work-life integration a more realistic goal?
Instead of striving for an impossible balance, more and more people are finding that a work-life integration approach is a more realistic way to manage their time and energy. Integration means intentionally valuing the roles that work and your personal life play. It allows for a recognition that, at times, either work or life may be more demanding than the other. Still, because both are valuable, ultimately, you will be able to return to a place of normalising both demands without feeling guilty.
There are many benefits to working towards a more integrated approach to life. For one, it will reduce stress and promotes better overall well-being. It will also improve productivity as you become mindful of your time and energy levels. As a wife, CEO, mom, and community member, there are days that I am a better CEO than a mom, and other days my family demands mean that I am a better mom than CEO. Recognising the importance of each of my roles and embracing the tension rather than feeling overwhelmed by it has freed me from living with guilt.
Work-life integration requires a mindset shift away from being resentful of activities that steal your time towards recognising that each activity is valuable. So while doing any aspect of life, you can engage fully, gratefully and mindfully.
Five ways to integrate work and life well
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to finding the right work-life integration. Instead, find what works best for you and your lifestyle. Here are helpful ways to get you started:
Rather than trying to box everything into a tight, inflexible schedule, embrace that these activities may overlap or one may increase while the other decreases. Still, you will integrate them so that each activity works well for you, your loved ones, and your work. Ensure that activities pertaining to your relationships, rest, and physical, mental and spiritual well-being are on the list.
It is essential to set clear boundaries between what is of value in life and what is not. Focus on where you can have the most impact and what fills your physical and spiritual bucket. This focus will help you avoid burnout and maintain a more holistic life.
If you believe everything you do is valuable, you will not resent any part of your life. A mindset change about the value of work will positively impact every area of your well-being. I recommend Ziwani’s Monday Christian podcast series if you have doubts about the importance of working.
Sharing with family and friends the value of your work and how you are trying to integrate everything into a more holistic, harmonious life is beneficial when you need to dip into personal time to attend to a work matter. In addition, they will be more supportive and understanding if you bring them on board with your journey.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Juggling many balls at once is a challenging feat. Work-life integration is all about ensuring you don’t drop the balls that are made of glass.
Work-life integration is not about spreadsheets and overscheduled diaries. Instead, work-life integration is about embracing the importance of every aspect of your life and working out a way that allows you to live with the tension that each of these aspects brings to you and your loved ones, in a way that is healthy and beneficial. Having honest discussions with a boss that respects you and the life you lead outside of work will go a long way to assisting you in mastering your work-life integration.
If you get it right, it’s a guilt-free way of ensuring you thrive in all aspects of life in which you are gifted and called to do.
Phillipa Geard is the mother of two as well as the Founder and CEO of award-winning agencies RecruitMyMom and RecruitAGraduate.