There is no such thing as work life balance anymore. It is dead. The smart phone killed it. In a world where we are constantly plugged in to the system, it is not feasible to compartmentalize our lives in the hope of achieving work life balance. It had a good run, and back in the day, when you left your office and there was no way for your employer, or a customer or a client to contact you, it had its place. But it is gone, and it is not coming back. The time has come to embrace work life integration.
No more compartmentalizing
The biggest difference between work life balance and work like integration is that with work life integration, you no longer compartmentalize different parts of your life. The 9-5 working model was created during the industrial revolution. To stop employees being overworked in factories the British government decided that a person needed 8 hours to sleep, 8 hours to work and 8 hours to spend with family and friends. That approach was then rolled out globally and its universally used today.
In work life integration, there is no need to have such strict compartmentalization as everything is interchangeable. If you need to do 8 hours of work, this does not need to be done in a single eight-hour block. Instead, you might choose to spend an hour clearing emails at 7am. Then spend 8-10am having breakfast with the family and dropping the kids off at school. Work from 10-12 before going to the gym and then having lunch between 12-2. Then doing 3 more hours work 2-5pm, spending time with the kids to help them with homework and having dinner with the family 5-7pm and then finishing off any work from 7-9pm. By breaking down your day and not compartmentalizing, you manage to achieve a lot more than you would do if you only focused on work from 9-5.
Focus on productivity
The other benefit of work life integration is that it gives you the flexibility of being truly productive. There is a difference between filling your diary with tasks to keep you busy for the 8 hours you are in the office and actually doing meaningful work. By embracing work life integration, you are able to scale up, or scale down your day, depending on your diary. For example, there are going to be busy periods where you have an urgent project or deadline and you may need to work 10 or even 12+ hours a day. But there are also going to be slow periods, where if we are honest, you probably only need to work 4 or 5 hours a day. Work life integration allows you the flexibility to do what is required, without arbitrarily sitting at your desk for an extra 3 hours pretending to busy.
Finally, work life integration is essential if you want to improve your mental health situation. Waking up at 6am, trying to find the energy to go to the gym before work, getting stuck in traffic on the way into the office and worrying about being late is not a great way to start the day. Spending 8 hours stuck at a desk and then rushing home to make dinner with the family and just when you are about to unwind for the first time that day, you get an urgent email that you have to respond to that keeps you busy until you go to bed is not healthy. It is why so many people feel stressed and overworked. Work life integration is the answer to all of this, it gives you back control and helps you create a sense of harmony and self-regulation.
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Point 2 is a major roadblock. As long as companies and middle managers have “physical presence” as a yardstick and it is used (abused actually) for appraisal discussions or even hiring/firing scenarios, it is going to be a sword hanging around the door. THIS has to be rid off, only then will it be one possible for people to truly inshackle themselves from an “industrial routine” and “integrate” work and life without fear of harassment. Till then, pipe dream?? Off course there are companies that respect their employees and the pandemic has helped BUT….. it still exists and it is only waiting for the pa remix situation to normalise to rear it’s ugly head all over again, and this time doubly ferocious!! Rest assured. Human nature has some aspects we can only try to change!!! But good luck with the attempt and sorry to be a dampener!!