For a few years, I have been writing on a blog called “work and life balance,” as I genuinely believe that being happy and satisfied in both your personal and professional life is key to beautiful living and achieving performance. Now there’s more and more talking about work and life integration or work life blending, which concepts explore even further the need to look at these two domains as one, with much more common elements that one would believe at first.
As opposed to separating work from “life,” I always believed in integrating these two, so you can make the most of each at the time when the opportunity is there. Things like work from home, flexible working hours, commute work, virtual team meetings, accommodating time zone differences, etc. these are all examples of how we need to accept the blurred lines between our personal and professional life, while keeping in mind the importance of disconnection, that I will talk about later on this article.
The concept promotes a clear separation between work, business and a career (the “9 to 5” approach), and everything “personal” such as family, personal goals, kids, health, and community. Many theories around “how to achieve work-life balance” go towards teaching us how to make time for the things that matter, how to prioritize our goals and strive to keep a balance between the two main domains. All these won’t work when we want to give our best towards a bigger purpose.
Our time is limited, and it’s close to impossible to focus separately on so many areas on the same day. We’ll always have to choose where to give our time and focus. Also, in such a connected world we live in today, sometimes solving an issue a colleague has on another time zone, checking your emails during your free time or answer an urgent personal matter during working hours is something you would need or want to do when thinking about your bigger purpose. Strict time limitation and allocation between work and life is a utopia, I believe, and not something we’d want.
Work-life integration or “blend”
Work-life integration or “blend” introduces the idea that we can focus on various aspects of our life at the same time, as opposed to balance that implies there are two opposing sides and when one is going up the other is going down.
From spending quality time with family, career goals, getting involved in charity work or pursuing a specific hobby, the work-life blend is about being treated as an individual rather than a resource able to drive benefits for a company. It’s about the uniqueness each human brings to the table and being acknowledged for that.
Work-life integration is about how you spend your time, how much of it is to pursue goals that matter to you. Do you love your job, and it is something you want to be doing and growing into as you move along? Are your hobbies helping you to be a better self, and do they contribute to your well-being? Are your professional and personal goals anywhere connected and aligned?
By having happy and committed employees that feel valued in the workplace through the unique contribution they bring to the table is what makes the difference between successful companies and workplaces that will keep struggling with hiring and retaining good people. Work life blend is not anymore about how an individual perceives his life and profession; it’s about how both employer and employee should switch their thinking around these two domains that are more and more interconnected.
The importance of disconnection
The direct consequence of having a connected world and integrate various aspects of our life into the daily routine is the need to give our brains some time off. Quiet time to settle, to realign, to think about higher things and make sure one still feel their life is going in the right direction.
To get in touch with what’s there and what you want, take some days off and go on a more extended retreat, alone, with no internet, phone, music or books, in other words, absolutely no distractions. You and your mind, have some quality time together.
Disconnect as well daily. To really keep working on yourself and grow personally, dedicate time to your family or dog and spend some quality time, the recommendation is to disconnect from everything for at least 2 hours every day. This way, you’re not only going to be happier, but you’ll also keep your mind healthy and sane, able to focus on all the juggling elements in your life.
In today’s world, decisions, and things we need to take care of are suffocating our minds. We want to live a meaningful life, and that’s why besides a career we want to work for personal and community purposes. Blending all these in and finding common ground is, therefore, the key to being happy and productive in all these areas that matter to us.