Work Life Integration versus Work Life Balance

Work Life Integration versus Work Life Balance

Don’t hate me. As you read this, I am on the beautiful Garden Island of Kauai in Hawaii.  It is amazing. The sun seems to shine every day. It is peaceful (except for the roosters crowing all day long—another story) and serene. It’s the perfect place to get away from work, clients, prospective clients, obligations, and the day-to-day rat race. This is truly paradise!

People still talk about work-life balance—about coming to a place like this and getting away. They claim it is about balancing work and life. That scale broke decades ago, I am sorry to say. Work-life balance doesn’t really exist. It existed when my parents went to work, came home at 5:00 p.m., travel was limited, the newspaper was the #1 form of news—and it came to the house to read in the evening after dinner. Work was left at work, holidays were exclusively for family, and there was clear separation between work and personal life.

Today, with smart phones, apps, and technology, with WiFi now even on planes (no rest for the business traveller), with fewer jobs and more demand on us as individuals in order to keep our jobs, work has changed. The ancient idea of “work-life balance,” as I describe in my keynote address on this topic, is little more than a myth.

That is not a bad thing. It is just reality. Hey—reality check: it is now work-life integration. If I were to ignore my email for the 12 days we are away, at 120 emails a day that I need to respond to or take some action on, that would be one full mailbox of almost 1,500 emails. Granted, some of them would have solved themselves in my absence or resulted in a contract termination (solved itself too, I guess), but in a world of customer service and “on-demand” expectations, leaving 1,500 or so emails unattended is probably not a prudent business decision.

So, what is work-life balance in my world? It is where each day has some personal life and some business life. When on holidays, it is more personal and less business. But I do respond to emails. I still write this TMC so you don’t miss it for a couple of weeks in a row. Work-life integration is ensuring that, when I am “at play,” I am still able to respond to emergencies. But also, I get up early and before my wife and daughter get up, I may write a report, work on a client’s naming right valuation, or finalize a municipality’s sponsorship policy. Then when it is time to play, I am ready to roll.

It works the other way, too. When I am at home and my daughter has a hockey game or speech competition at school, I leave work or block off the time to ensure that “work” is secondary at that hour, minute, half day, or whatever. Work and life need to be integrated in a world that has shifted from timeclock to integration. And you know what? It works. It works great. Clients are happy. Family is happy. And I dare say it, I am very happy.

Why not crush that myth that you cannot achieve? Ditch the thought of work-life balance and come join the movement of work-life integration!

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