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  • Stillwater Online

Work-Life Integration in the Real World

Man working in kitchen with laptop while eating breakfast with his dog.

Is it just us or does it feel harder than ever to juggle the demands of your workplace and personal life? The intricacies of balancing our professional responsibilities and personal life seem to have become even more pronounced in recent years, particularly for those who have transitioned to the remote work setting. The traditional boundaries that once separated the realms of work and personal life have blurred; with all of our technological advances it’s now commonplace to see employees bring their work cell phones to the park with their kids and entrepreneurs bring their laptops on vacation. Although this comes with its benefits, this global shift makes it even more important for workers to master the nuances of prioritization, time management, and self-discipline. 

What is work-life integration?

Understanding work-life integration is the first step in finding a more harmonious approach to life's demands. Unlike the traditional concept of work-life balance, which suggests a strict separation between work and personal life, integration emphasizes the interconnectedness of the two. In our course, The Integrated Life: 5 Weeks to More Enjoyable Work, Authentic Living, and a Happier You, we talk a lot about this concept and define work-life integration as: 

The degree of flexibility a person has to adjust their work around their lifestyle.

Integration is about blending the professional and personal aspects of life in a way that promotes overall well-being, fulfillment and harmony – without the guilt of feeling you are falling short in either aspect of your life.


Why work-life integration is essential

Workers across all roles and positions can find themselves wearing multiple hats, managing various responsibilities, and facing unique challenges. These challenges can lead to burnout if not proactively addressed.

A recent survey has highlighted a concerning trend of burnout among entrepreneurs, in particular. The demands of running a business, combined with the pressures of personal life, can contribute to high stress levels. Entrepreneurs also tend to be extremely passionate about their work, which leads to over-working and social isolation. Embracing work-life integration becomes crucial for stress reduction and overall well-being.

Work-life integration vs. work-life balance

Both work-life balance and work-life integration share a common objective - creating equilibrium between professional and personal life. However, the approaches differ significantly.

Work-life balance mindset

Daniel is a dedicated graphic designer striving for work-life balance while working from home. Despite his best efforts to compartmentalize work and personal life, he faces constant struggles. He sets deliberate time constraints on work and personal time but often finds that the two do not always stay independent of one another. Unexpected personal events, such as a family emergency or childcare issues run into his “work time” and when projects fall behind he tries to play catch up during his kids hockey game. For him, this further compounds his stress; these unforeseen interruptions not only disrupt his work routine but also add an emotional toll and a level of guilt. Despite his best efforts to compartmentalize work and personal life, he faces constant struggles and finds it challenging to meet the expectations of both worlds.

Work-life integration mindset

In contrast, let’s take a look at Marissa, a content creator who has embraced the concept of work-life integration. Unlike the struggle faced by Daniel, Marissa seamlessly weaves work and personal life together, creating a dynamic and flexible approach to managing life's demands.

Marissa's mornings may start with a work-related zoom call while sipping coffee, but she effortlessly transitions between professional tasks and personal responsibilities, like folding a load of laundry or fitting in a morning sauna. She recognizes the value of flexibility, allowing her to attend to personal matters during traditional work hours without feeling the weight of guilt or stress. And rather than fitting all her work into the 9-5 timeframe, Marissa often sits down at her computer in the evening to send a few emails, knowing that this is a time when her day slows down a little.

In Marissa's world, unexpected personal events are met with adaptability rather than frustration or guilt. If a family matter arises during her workday, she can pivot without compromising her professional commitments, knowing that sometimes the two worlds need to be attended to at the same time. This fluid integration of work and personal life not only enhances her efficiency but also nurtures a sense of well-being. As Richard Branson aptly puts it, "Don't think of work as separate from your life. Work is an integral part of who you are."

Tips for integrating work and personal life

  1. Set clear boundaries: While there are no set rules for how you should divide your time with work-life integration, you’ll still want to clearly define your ideal work hours and personal time in a way that works for you, knowing that flexibility is a requirement in case something comes up.

  2. Prioritize tasks: It’s more important than ever to be accountable to yourself and proactively identify and prioritize tasks based on urgency and importance.

  3. Embrace flexibility: Have an open mind to accommodate unexpected events. It’s natural, as humans, to feel defensive when a change in routine or schedule is forced upon us. However, to fully integrate work and life it’s important to check yourself when that resistance bubbles up and instead embrace a flexible, can-do attitude in your day.

  4. Learn to delegate: If you have the ability and resources, recognize the power of delegation to ease your workload.

  5. Tech detox: Designate tech-free zones (like your bedroom for example) or times to disconnect from work-related communication.

  6. Self-care rituals: Incorporate self-care rituals into your routine to nurture both your personal and professional well-being.

  7. Know yourself: Dig into what you really want in life, identify your core values and how you want to spend your time here on earth. Yes, these are big “tips'' but we’ve got two amazing courses to get your started on your path:

Tips for integration when you work a 9-5

We recognize that not everyone has the ability to manage their time like Marissa and there is still such a thing as a traditional 9-5 workday. It can be more difficult to integrate work and life when you are glued to a desk chair, one of two employees at a coffee shop, or on a night shift at a care home. Luckily, we’ve got a few nuggets to help you get the most out of your workdays too:

  1. Know your limits: Don't overwork yourself to the point of exhaustion. Practice setting boundaries and communicating them; make sure your team clearly understands where your boundaries lie.

  2. Take breaks: Make time for yourself in your day where you can decompress from the pressures of work. These don’t need to be long, let’s call them mini-breaks. Take 4 minutes, leave your screens at your desk, grab a drink of water, walk outside or around the office, take deep breaths and recenter yourself.

  3. Focus on your goals: What are your professional goals and are you focusing on working towards those in your day-to-day activities? If not, who can you talk to or what can you take on to gain experience, learn and show off your skills? Take initiative and bring personal meaning back into your workday.

  4. Time for you: Are you taking lunch breaks or using your company's benefits for personal time? If not, start taking advantage of this time to do things you enjoy. Do you enjoy yoga, spin, catching up with friends, working on your side hustle, jumping on a call with your counsellor? Pick something, or a few things, and be sure to schedule time into your calendar each and every day.

Tips for employers to encourage integration

  1. Flexible work arrangements: Offer flexible work hours or remote work options.

  2. Encourage open communication: Foster a culture where employees feel comfortable discussing their work-life balance concerns.

  3. Provide wellness programs: Introduce wellness programs to support employees' physical and mental health.

  4. Gauge productivity by outcomes, not hours: Ensure employees have clear goals and expectations for their role so they can work when and where they are most productive, without the need to be monitored. 

  5. Promote work-life boundaries: Encourage employees to set clear boundaries between work and personal life and ensure leadership leads by example.

  6. Acknowledge achievements: Recognize and celebrate both personal and professional accomplishments.

  7. Flexible PTO policies: Implement flexible paid time off policies to accommodate various personal needs.

  8. Provide remote access: Even if you have a physical office, maintain organized and accessible-from-anywhere file management systems and team communications to support incongruent staff schedules and locations.

  9. Support professional development: Offer opportunities for skill development without compromising personal time.

  10. Regular check-ins: Conduct regular check-ins to understand and address individual needs.

With work-life integration, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. You have to figure out what works best for you given the demands of your work and personal life. 

Employees and entrepreneurs stand to gain enhanced well-being, flexibility, improved job satisfaction, reduced burnout, and increased engagement. Employers benefit through enhanced productivity and success, improved morale, talent attraction, reduced turnover costs, and a positive employer brand. When employers nurture a culture of empathy and practicality it transforms the path to work-life integration into an enriching experience for everyone.


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