The struggle to find a balance between one’s work life and personal life is a tale as old as time. Of course, this was already a challenge in the workplace even pre-pandemic, but many seem to agree, working from home has made this balance that much harder to achieve. Many, especially those working from home, may even argue that achieving a healthy work-life balance is impossible to do. After all, 76% of workers surveyed admitted they continue checking emails after working hours. Let’s not even mention how many of us continue to work in bed late at night to meet a deadline. Instead, many are pointing to having a work-life integration, so as to make personal hours just as flexible as working ones.
So, what’s the difference between having a work-life balance and integrating your work life and personal life? Read on to find out, as well as to find out which situation suits you and your job best!
Which Is Which: Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Integration
Of course, a workplace or employer may use these terms interchangeably. But generally speaking, the majority of workplaces define a work-life balance in the same way Business News Daily does: “the state of equilibrium where a person equally prioritizes the demands of one’s career and the demands of one’s personal life.” More often than not, however, a work-life balance typically looks like the worker maintaining firm boundaries on working hours.
And sure, logging in at 9 a.m. and logging out at 5 p.m. every day sounds like it would allow workers (especially those working from home) enough time to manage a good balance of work and personal life priorities. But the reality is, more often than not, workers will continue to perform even small work-related tasks, especially when working from home.
And while there are some bylaws that went into effect to try to combat overworking workers when they are remote, some think this is still not enough.
Instead, many workers are beginning to negotiate for more flexible working hours so as to achieve a smoother, more practical work-life integration. For many, this means their employers measure not the time spent working each day, but rather, the quality of their work. And in many cases, the quality of work actually improves when workers have freedom to choose their hours.
In fact, according to an article from The Manual, when employees were given the opportunity for a four-day work week, “63% said they [now] maintain better quality work.” This just goes to show that more working hours does not necessarily promise better results.
So, shouldn’t employers allow employees to leave mid-day to pick up their kids from preschool? Or take them to a park before their nap? Or start work after a morning full of other family-related duties?
Signs You May Be More Suited for Work-Life Integration
As great as the freedom to choose working hours is, the reality is this model isn’t suitable for everyone. Some workers need a bit of structure. That is not to say that they have a four-day work week, but that maybe they work better between the hours of nine to five or eight to three, etc.
So, before you start negotiating work-life integration models in your workplace, make sure they will work for you. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if using an integrated work-life system is suitable for you:
- Do you feel confident in your ability to self-regulate and self-motivate?
- Do you naturally work better at different times of the day? I.e., do you often think more clearly/creatively early in the morning or late at night?
- Do you have a good environment in which you can complete your work after your workplace closes for the day?
- Do you have family commitments that would better be scheduled around different working hours? Would these commitments be prioritized over your work so much so that you’d be willing to change jobs for more flexible hours?
- Do you feel confident using online or other communication methods with your coworkers and employer(s) if you were working during different hours as them?
If you answered yes to all of the above, having flexible hours may allow you to better integrate your personal commitments with your work life. And if so, you can bring these very points up to your employer when the time comes to inquire about a more integrated work model.
Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, an entirely integrated work-life model is not for everyone. Some may work better under more strict and clearly divided time periods. So, how can you tell if an integrated working model is good for you?
How to Know When You’re Overworking
If you have the opportunity to even test out an integrated working model, make sure you start recording the hours you spend on a project or assignment. This way, you can keep track of how well your integrated model is working in comparison to a traditional 9-5.
If a project or assignment is taking you far longer than it used to in your previous working model, you may not be suitable for more flexible working conditions. And this isn’t necessarily your fault or something you’re doing wrong! It may simply boil down to not having the right tools or soft skills needed to thrive in these working conditions. You may be more suited to having a more distinct separation between your work and home lives, too. So, don’t let this new working model burn you out, either.
Do what’s best for you and your family, and if your employer does not allow for you to manage the right working model, whether it is during certain hours or in certain environments, it may be time for a change.