Work-Life Integration: What is it?

mosaic-874096_1280The term "work-life integration" can seem really nebulous at times. I know it resonates with me and that it's meaningful, but I'm still digging in to the term and the concept. In an effort to help strengthen my grasp of it and help to explain why this blog came about, I thought I'd take some time to explore what "work-life integration" means to me. Work-life integration is a new way of thinking about what has been called "work/life balance". The term "work/life balance" implies that your work and your life are in competition with one another and, just like your checkbook, need to be balanced. Instead of seeing the two as parts of ourselves that are in conflict with one another, it may be more helpful to understand how our work and our lives can become integrated in a way that is mutually enriching. Work-life integration looks like a synergistic and energizing arrangement where your work, home, community and private self are in conversation with one another*.

I'm learning that successfully integrating those four components of our lives requires a few basic things:

First, it requires getting honest about whether we want our work and our lives to be in touch. If you hate your job or get to the office at 6:00am to avoid your spouse, then work-life integration might be tough to create right now. Integrating work and life requires us to be honest with ourselves about what is working and not working in each of the four spheres (work, home, community and self).

Second, we can't rely on others to tell us how to integrate our work and our lives. The only model of work-life integration that is going to be effective for you is your model. Everyone's boundaries between work and life are different, and you have to integrate it all in your own, beautiful way. Your workplace will take as much of you as you are willing to give away, so creating a mosaic of work, home, community and self that feels right to you is critical to successful integration.

Finally, we have to be authentic when we talk about how work, home, community and self affect one another. This one is tough for me as an HR person who has always wondered about the balance between the personal and professional in the workplace, but I'm a little bit tired of that paradigm. The fact is that we're people when we walk into work, and we're people when we walk out. Let's stop pretending that we can just turn off our work brains at home and that we can let go of worry for our kids in the office. It's all life, and it's all happening now - let's just get real about that.

I think we could all stand to be a bit more integrated: more holistic, more synergistic, and more compassionate toward ourselves as we build a new mosaic for understanding our lives.

*Thank you to Steward Friedman for the concept of the four major domains of work, home, community and private self.

**I've finally launched my website! You can check it out at Pro tip: There's a freebie right on the homepage!

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