Work-life separation v.s work-life integration

Work-life separation v.s work-life integration


Striking the perfect balance between career and personal life has always been a challenge for workers, especially in the United States. Schedules seem busier than ever, deadlines seem ever more stressful, causing both work and personal life to suffer.

The term work-life balance arose out of a need for employees to find stability in their lives when it comes to family, friends, and self. The idea was that by adopting this mindset at a corporate level, it would result in employees feeling a greater sense of control and ownership in their own lives and thus ultimately perform better. However, when we speak to our peers, have any of them actually achieved this seemingly mythical balance? Companies have implemented programs and policies but are they worth the expense? There’s a new term being circulated. Work-life balance seems to be on the way out, while work-life integration is on the way in and here’s why:

Work-life balance is too subjective
Balance for one worker might be 60 hours a week, while it might be 35 hours to the person sitting next to them. It’s important to note that while most people care less about the number of hours they work and more about the flexibility of their office environment, the point is that balance is individually defined. Employers can find it difficult to appease all concerns and thus maintain a content, dedicated workforce.

Now that it’s been reasonably established that work-life balance may not be as effective as we’ve been led to believe, how is work-life integration any better and what does it look like?

Defining work-life integration
While work-life balance is a separation of your personal and professional life, work-life integration is a connection between the two. For example, work-life balance would be leaving work at 5pm to pick your child up from after-school daycare, whereas work-life integration would be brining your child to work after school. Another common example would be rather than using your lunch break to walk your dog, dogs are allowed in the office. Work-life integration is not only more realistic, it’s also more empowering. It becomes about offering employees choices based on their own priorities. Rather than leaving work at 6pm, they can leave a little earlier with the option to take phone calls remotely. We embrace this ideology in our own office at Olive Hill Group.

It’s worth noting that if not implemented properly, employees could be working outside of normal office hours, so it is important to ensure your employees still have their “own” time. If designed properly, policies that embrace work-life integration are incredibly effective in increasing both productivity and employee engagement.

How to implement work-life integration programs
If you’re intrigued by this conceptual modification, there are countless ways to implement programs in your office.

1. Asses current work-life balance programs
Many organizations spend millions on programs that employees either don’t value or utilize. Create an evaluation process to get employee feedback on the awareness of benefits. Which ones do they use? Which ones are unpopular?

2. Employee segmentation
Employee segmentation is the grouping of employees based not only on skills and functions but also their needs and motivations. Some examples would be grouping individuals by scheduling preferences, work flexibility goals, and area of expertise. The point of this exercise is to determine the best method on how to implement your future work-life integration benefits.

3. Create opportunities for virtual work / flexible scheduling
More and more organizations are expanding their virtual workforce. It’s important to note, especially on a large scale, that a remote workforce requires a lot of planning and consideration. However, as cloud-based technology becomes the norm, businesses are finding more reasons than ever to increase incorporate a virtual workforce. Concerned about if this really works? Human beings spend a collective 3.4 trillion1 years commuting, so the time regained from lack of commuting is normally enough to sway even the most undecided.

4. Individualize employee benefits and flexibilities
Instead of offering a mass menu of flexibility benefits, scale them back and offer more options- much like an open enrollment period for health insurance. The ability to change benefits not only provides extra flexibility for your employees, it also allows you to asses your organization’s ROI on work-life integration programs.

5. Start small and scale-up
Empower both upper and middle management leaders to develop and enact programs on a smaller scale so you can determine the ROI and efficacy of each program. This allows your organization to test many programs at once while increasing positive sentiments and employee engagement.

At Olive Hill Group, we believe our greatest strength lies in the fact that we are not all the same. We draw inspiration from our differences, unique experiences, and individual thought patterns to provide the highest quality content and service. By embracing individuality, we are able to transition from work-life balance to work-life integration.


Back to news