Work Life Integration
When it comes to workplace well-being, often, people link it to ‘work-life balance’. Work-life balance seems to be the new buzz word, the new ‘desire’ for people, as they strive to create a ‘whole’ lives for themselves.
However, through my experience at the workplace, and many leaders (across levels) around me, it seems that the idea that an employee should strike a delicate balance between their work life and personal life is out… WHY?
Because, it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish between the two; i.e. there is a blurry line between work and life. With the rise of flexible schedules, constant contact via technology, and remote work, the new mantra seems to be work-life integration (and not work-life balance).
A lot of people, myself included, are ok to go beyond the ‘6-8’ hour work day… In fact, whilst the concept of a 4-hour work week gives us some excellent insights, in today’s competitive business environment, and with our very own career ambitions, we may even have certain days where we work more than 8 hours…However, perhaps what some people are looking for is despite the few days of extra hours, how can they ensure they live a ‘whole’ life without compromising on work/fast career progression?
So, what does it take to really live life the work-life integration way?
- WORK-LIFE INTEGRATION IS A MINDSET
Yes, it all begins with our mind-set. While flexibility at work is on the rise, so is the relentless pace of business. In fact, studies show that over 40% of the workforce faces significant stress in their jobs, and describe the feeling as an ‘overwhelming’ one. Amidst this chaos, it is imperative to choose a mind-set that is a ‘no compromise’ one – whether it is work or life (of course, this is a personal choice, however, for those who want to live a ‘whole life’, this is imperative).
Work-life integration involves having a broad vision for oneself, and our life. It may involve either re-working our identify, or recognizing the many possible aspects of our one self. Having achieved great success in our careers, often, the desire (or need) to give rein to the unexpressed facets of ourselves becomes pressing. Therefore, the first step is really to switch our mind-set about what success means – is success high achievement at work only, or is it the ability to integrate various aspects of life whilst continuing to work at full swing?
This switch is mind-set along with a vision for one’s life may require us to then define the various ‘life’ priorities we have along with work… for example, whilst I was working and continue to work for a considerable number of hours per week, some non negotiables included fitness/exercise, volunteering (at least once a week), and my every day yoga practice.
- STRIVING FOR WORK-LIFE INTEGRATION = EXCELLENT ENERGY MANAGEMENT
Why do I say this? Because, work-life integration involves
- The ability to look at both the short-term and long-term simultaneously(e.g.: “in the short-term, I am chasing a tough deadline, but if every deadline makes me compromise on life, the long-term may not look too bright”)
- Juggling multiple diverse areas of your life, without falling prey to ‘multi-tasking’ – i.e. the ability to be mindful in the present moment, without letting go of priorities for the future(whether it is one hour, one month, or even six months later)
This requires tremendous energy management – right from discipline, to self-control, self-compassion, cultivating mindfulness into our lives, with relentless focus…
In my experience, I received this energy from my daily practice of Yoga and Meditation…coupled with my excel sheet that had goals for each dimension of my life – broken down by fortnight, and made every 3 months…This excel sheet planning coupled with the energy from yoga/mindfulness made it easier to execute.
- WORK-LIFE INTEGRATION REQUIRES ACTION AND MOTIVATION (even though we said work-life integration is a mind-set, taking action is imperative)
A lot of people envision and dream of pursuing their career, whilst also keeping up with their physical fitness, spiritual practices, and social life – but only few really manage to do this. The only thing that differentiates those successful with work-life integration is – Intrinsic motivation and ACTION. Too much reflection, self-assessment, and planning sometimes makes for analysis-paralysis. According to Herminia Ibarra, Organizational Behaviour professor at INSEAD, taking action makes people find their way more quickly, than the usual paper and pencil self-assessment. Of course, this doesn’t mean planning doesn’t work…All I am saying is, sometimes, there is no perfect way to manage time, or do what you have to… and often, procrastination or a tendency to get caught up in the short-term goals or our super conscientious and low resilience behaviour at work may come in the way… in such situations, pushing yourself to show up and act can be most useful.
When I was working long hours in a consulting role, it was really just the vision for a ‘whole life’ along with the ability to take action that led me to do anything else out side of the job. I found that extending my focus and value on ‘achievement’ at work to life was a great way to begin to take action. In the consulting role, I always felt that given a situation where I was on my own, work-life integration would be easier. However, now that I am setting up my venture to coach individuals and consult organizations to enhance their well-being, I have realized that it can be equally challenging even in this situation where I set my own deadlines. In short, the grass is and WILL ALWAYS be greener on the other side. And therefore, the only way to succeed in creating a whole life for ourselves is to develop the intrinsic motivation, and act.
After all, as Dr. Herminia Ibarra says when we ACT like a leader, we also begin to THINK like a leader. So, when we act on effective work-life integration, it also becomes a reality for us J