Work-life balance or integration?

It is a subject that most of us are interested in and try to learn more about, what has previously been known as the work-life balance. The challenge for us all is to try and find a way to complete the day job but still have time to do the things we want, and need to, at home. We all need time to do what makes us relax and unwind so we give our bodies and minds chance to recover.

I was reading something today that started talking about it not as getting a work-life balance but developing work-life integration. You might think it sounds like the same thing but I believe there are subtle differences between the two.

Work-life balance implies that there are two things with very defined boundaries. There is work and the hours that are devoted to that, and then there is the other stuff which can be classified as our life. But that is just too simple and can’t reflect what we are seeing now in our daily lives. Nowadays, we often work from home, work compressed hours, or work around other demands. For many the ability to be able to run an office from your laptop or even smartphone has made it easier to work flexibly and of course has made work more something that we do on and off throughout the day.

This is where work-life integration may be a much better phrase. It focuses on how the elements blend together to make your whole life experience. It is less about definition of time including ‘I finish now so I need to clock off and get some me time’ and more about ‘I am logging on to do a few hours and then I will take my children to school, the dog to the vets or help my elderly parents’. That is about using the technology to improve our lives regardless of the historic norms of work.

It can also stop us from becoming obsessed with this we must be in work or we must leave work at a certain time. Instead, we can work with our employers to take more control of the time at work and therefore more control over our lives. That has to be somewhere that we all want to get to.

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