Is Integration the New Balance?

Tired of trying – in vain – to achieve some semblance of work-life balance? Perhaps it’s time to explore why this isn’t always possible - and why it’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

The concept of work-life balance has traditionally focused on keeping our work and personal lives separate, and trying to maintain a sense of equality between the two. 

When wanting to uphold a work-life balance, we try to meet the demands of our careers and personal lives equally by creating firm boundaries between them, with strictly appointed working hours, around which we feel free to do anything in our private capacities.

Our personal and professional lives exist alongside one another in this framework, but we view them as separate entities, which flourish independently of each other.  

Work-life integration, on the other hand, centres around the idea that there is little to no separation between our personal and professional selves, and that our work and free time should complement - rather than compete with - each other. 

Different for each individual, this approach allows us to assess which areas of our lives need more attention in any given moment. It also recognises that our personal and work lives can, in fact, enrich one another. 

You may, for example, want to complete your work one evening so that you can attend an appointment in the morning, or feel grateful and happy to be working on a Saturday morning, as you know that the remuneration will enable you to enjoy many weekends to come with your family and friends. 

Having the opportunity to coordinate our schedules according to our ever-changing responsibilities can help us to feel more empowered and in control, especially during busy times.

With more flexibility and nuance than work-life balance, work-life integration has the potential to leave us feeling equally positive about our professional and personal pursuits, leading - ironically - to a greater feeling of balance in our daily lives. 

What does an ideal week look like for you? Prioritise your responsibilities accordingly, and use this hierarchy to create a schedule that incorporates every aspect of your life. Once you’ve committed to allocating your time to your priorities, remember to honour your commitments, and to always communicate how you plan to proceed with those you work with, as well as your loved ones - as their cooperation will be essential to the process. 

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