What is this thing called work-life integration? Is it work-life balance in a chic new wrapper? Alternatively, is it something different?
In my mind, the old work-life balance phrase was about separation of work and life. Not staying at the desk until midnight, not missing the family’s special events etc.
Work-life integration is a recognition that technology has blurred the lines between when we are working and when we are not. Work-life integration is about how to get the best work productivity and satisfaction as well as the best family/personal happiness when these domains are no longer clearly separated by a commute to the office.
To get the best work-life integration, we must understand what it is we value in each of our roles and stay true to that. All the while maintaining our self-respect, and the respect of our colleagues, and coping with the potential stress of not having specified downtime.
Plan, plan, plan
Plan, plan and plan some more. I realise that planning to be flexible, sounds like an oxymoron. It isn’t. You can’t be successfully flexible without a clear understanding of what is important. This allows you to devote your energies to where they will have the maximum benefit. The important vs urgent matrix from the eighties hasn’t lost its veracity.
Know your values
Most people tell me they know their values, yet when asked to verbally articulate them they tend to not clearly articulate anything much. This is no surprise, we use the word values often yet clear coherent understanding of ones own values and living true to them is not very common . The good news is I have a free workbook that can help you with this vital step in achieving your best work-life integration. Just follow this link.
Remember in the old days we defined a full-time job by the work that could be completed in 40 hours? Now that your job can access you 24 hours a day, every place (even aeroplanes now) it is up to you to set boundaries. Ask yourself; how many hours are you being paid for, how many extra do you wish to do for love? How many are you doing without even noticing? When/where are your down times?
Get your work & life teams onside
Understand the not-negotiables for both you and your family and schedule them in. It is all too easy to think I am working flexible hours to be a better parent, therefore, I should drop everything the minute my family wants me. Stop. Talk it through, some children will be devastated if you miss the school sports day others would much rather you had the time to help with their homework and couldn’t care less about the sports day.
If you try to do everything for everyone you will end up pleasing no-one and burning out.
This goes back to understanding your values. You don’t have to make time for yoga or mountain climbing if you hate it. Your time could be as simple as sitting down to eat with the family if that is what gives you the most pleasure. Don’t be pressured by what society sees as me-time, you don’t need to Instagram pictures of your downtime (unless that is your kinda down time, in which case get amongst it). However you do it, please remember to attach your own oxygen mask first or you will not be able to help others.
Take charge and ‘own’ the integrations
All too often integrated working which often comes with flexitime or working from home is seen as the soft option, viewed by some as simply ‘skiving off’. Be careful not to buy into this attitude. Continue to be fully professional in your planning and delivery and to support others with flexi schedules. Demonstrate through your actions that work-life integration is the way of the future.
Work-life integration is full of benefits for workers (less time commuting in peak traffic, better sharing family of and community duties, ability to work in your activewear occasionally, like me today) and organisations (workforce engagement, and access to scarce resources otherwise not in the market). However, this new way of working also has risks that need managing by employees and employers alike.
About Dr Rachel McInnes
Rachel McInnes has twenty years’ experience management consulting and coaching, and has worked under her own brands since 2003. She has spent the last four years doing a PhD in wellbeing and work performance on scholarship at the University of Western Australia.
Rachel works with clients to get very clear on their values and purpose and to support them through creating the life that suits them the most, and hence, in turn, enables them to contribute the most.