Get over Work-life balance… Work-life integration is more realistic

Work-Life integration - image of 3 blocks reading family, play, work
Image credit: Flickr

Is your mobile phone next to you as you read this? Yes? Then, chances are that you also begin and end each day by checking the emails and messages on your mobile.

Checking the mobile phone for work-related emails, messages and updates all through the day (and even when you get up in the middle of the night) is the new norm. After all, it is quite impossible to meet the boss’s expectations to be ‘on top of things’ if you aren’t connected to work.

So is it time to get over the idealistic concept of ‘work-life balance’?

I think so.

The concept of ‘Work-life balance’ puts work and life at odds with each other, each to be achieved at the expense of the other. Not being able to achieve the ideal ‘work-life balance’ makes us dissatisfied. Often, ‘work-life balance’ seems archaic in a hyper-connected, VUCA world that demands us to be integrated with work like never before.

Instead, what is more realistic is – ‘work-life integration’. Because work and life co-exist. Attending official calls even after working hours is a trade-off to the flexibility of taking your kids along with you to work whenever it is required. Work-life integration provides a sense of control to handle both work and life’s various demands simultaneously.

In fact, work-life integration is happening all around us. You are likely to have witnessed working parents respond to their emails as they wait to pick up their kids from school.

And, the next time you take a vacation at a resort, look around. You may see kids swimming in the pool along with one parent while the other parent completes work.

A mindset change from ‘work-life balance’ to ‘work-life integration’ makes the various demands of both work and life seem achievable. Many organizations have realized the importance of ‘work-life integration’ and are beginning to offer flexible scheduling of work, work from home and autonomy over work schedule to allow employees to integrate work and their lives. All this, without compromising business outcomes.

‘Work-life integration’ seems to be a rational evolution of ‘work-life balance’. This is especially true for developing countries like ours where opportunities are scarce and the demand for jobs largely outstrips its supply.

Yet, while the world seems to be moving towards ‘work-life integration’, we see New York city officials proposing a law for banning work emails outside office hours for private employees in an attempt to restore ‘work-life balance’. The law revolves around ‘the right to disconnect from work’ after office hours. It protects employees against retaliation from their organization, should the employees choose to disconnect from work after office hours. Workers in France have already won the right to ignore business emails that come after office hours.

While we wait to see how these developments unfold in New York, for the rest of the world, work-life balance will remain only a dream given the stark ground realities.

For now, ‘work-life integration’ seems more realistic. It helps us handle both work and life without pitting them against each other.

You may also like to read “Stop Second-Guessing Your Decision of Taking a Career Break” written by the same author.

About the author:

 

Sruthi was an HR Manager, working for companies like Infosys and Thomson Reuters. After taking a break to look after her child, she now freelances. She enjoys developing HR content and writes on topics related to HR.

(The author is a guest blogger at Her Second Innings. The opinions expressed are those of the author.)

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