Maintaining a work life balance is a harrowing task in this day age of technology and startups that demand engagement 24x7, which can be quite a challenge for those with families and other relationships to maintain. Further, there seems to be a thorough disconnect between the view of employers and employees on how this balance is achieved. According to a study conducted by Workplace Trends, 67% of HR professionals think that their employees have a balanced work-life, while almost half (45%) of employees (35% of job seekers) feel that they don't have enough time each week to do personal activities. For those above the age of 50, who find themselves complaining about how their children can’t get enough of their phones and laptops, it’s a nasty shock to realise that the companies they work for expect them too to be just as constantly available as their younger counterparts. For the newer generations, whose first words spelled qwerty and were said as tweets, it’s almost natural to check work emails on the go and chat with co-workers during and after work hours. In another study by Gyro and Forbes Insights, it was discovered that 98% of executives check email during their off time and 63% check every one or two hours during their off time.
It’s not hard to imagine why such demands are being placed on employees nowadays. Given the fast pace of innovation and change, companies need to be on their toes to react to competitive campaigns and thus require their employees to be on high alert and accessible more often than is possible. According to the study, 64% expect their employees to be reachable outside of the office on their personal time, 18% by email, 3% by phone and 26% by both email and phone. It’s thus become cumbersome to try and achieve work-life balance when employers aren’t really motivated to make it a reality.
However, there’s a suggestion that promises to make this situation a lot less distressing for everyone involved- work life integration. This concept essentially suggests that professionals have to merge what they do personally and professionally, in order to make both work. The rationale behind such a lifestyle is three pronged.
Treating career as separate from life is unhealthy
Seeing as one’s career is such a large part of one’s life, whether they choose to or are able to enjoy it or not, treating it as separate from one’s life is an unhealthy approach; it is this distinction that encourages people to search for escapes and ‘something more meaningful to do with their life’. Life is after all the intersection of the four major sections of a person’s life: professional, familial, communal and personal. Keep in mind that for many people, having a job is enough of an occupation and has the potential to be enormously satisfying, but because of societal pressures to ‘make life more than just your job’ or ‘not become just another cog in the corporate machine’, it becomes harder for them to take pride in their success, often writing it off as a result of hard work and paid slavery rather than a fruitful employment of their skills.
Another one of the reasons why bringing the two worlds together is that in case of a disappointment in either of them, this approach may actually help you deal with it better. Let’s say you’ve completely messed at a task at work and have made a complete fool of yourself. In that moment, an entire part of your life will start to feel like a complete failure. That’s how depression and dissatisfaction creeps in. On the other hand, if work was just a part of your life and not separate from it, with an identity of its own, you could tell yourself that at the end of the day, you still have a lot to look forward to and a lot of good things going on, and that’s why you can deal with it much more calmly.
Compartmentalization isn't necessarily the key to success
Far too many people have stated that in order to make it big in the corporate world, one has to make certain sacrifices- be it family, passion or frivolity, but there are numerous examples to prove that isn’t always the case. There are lessons we learn from our lives at home which when implemented in the workplace can make us more well-rounded individuals, leaders, co-workers and managers. Being the “do it all” kind of person who has hobbies and interests and still manages to work well is quite the envious profile to have. Opponents of this theory believe that if there’s a problem at work, one should forget about it when one is at home, and only try and tackle it when one is back at office the next day. However, that doesn’t always serve as much of a break as we might think; you’re spending your break at home, where you’re comfortable, and around people you trust, who have diverse knowledge and varying experiences to speak of, but are only looking for a solution at the very place where the problem lies, where you’re surrounded by people who, more often than not, are in some sort of competition with you…why not discuss it in a more relaxed environment and get some perspective outside of the four walls that reek of the issue’s insolvability? Similarly, when the tables are turned, and we have a personal problem that we’d like to leave behind, we sometimes feel that if we just try and tune it out, we can focus on work and have a great day. That almost never works. We end up feeling listless or angry, depending on the nature of the problem, and invariable fail at being a hundred per cent productive.
Work-out-of-office trend is here to stay
As many as 30 million Americans work from home at least once each week, which will likely increase by 63% in the next five years. Furthermore, 70% of employees work from alternative locations (not just home) on a regular basis. There are a number of extremely innovative methods to stay productive in such situations, but the heart of the matter is that such situations are occurring everywhere. What’s important to note that is that a lot of the times, employees aren’t against being available on the go; all they ask is a little consideration from the employers they are so involved with. In a study by TeamViewer and Harris Interactive for instance, 61% of employees were found to be willing to work during vacation. It is thus recommended that employers jump on the bandwagon before it rides off with all their best and brightest talent. If one is striving to keep ‘work’ and ‘life’ apart, one is pushing oneself to a limit that will eventually be crossed, to give rise to a number of disastrous consequences ranging from getting fired to going into depression.
In conclusion, it must be stated that the greatest reason why work life integration should be looked at by employers as a sensible trend to adopt is that it’s already happening, and if not handled properly, could lead to disintegration of work culture, and growing dissatisfaction amongst employees who feel under pressure and less motivated to do what comes naturally to them.