Shifting from work-life balance to work-life integration
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s this: how we work has changed forever. An incredible 58% of us now work from home for at least some of the week — enjoying big benefits in work life balance. Workplace technology has advanced. Flexibility has increased. And the boundaries between our professional and personal lives have been well and truly blurred. Faced with this new reality, it’s time to rethink the idea of work-life balance and find better ways to combine work with the rest of our lives. Could work-life integration be the key to navigating this new hybrid work landscape?
Let’s take a look.
Work-life integration: the next step in the new world of work
Work used to be something that happened exclusively in an office (or other workspace). Life was something that happened away from the work environment.
Thanks to the pandemic, new workplace technology, and the speed at which organizations have adopted remote working models, compartmentalizing the different parts of our lives in this way feels like ancient history.
It’s no longer possible to maintain a distance between work and life because both are happening concurrently within the confines of your own home. We’ve created a hybrid work world, where both work and life can take place in any location, at any time of day.
Your kids do their homework as you run a Zoom meeting from the kitchen table.
You interrupt a call to answer the door to the delivery guy.
You put a load of washing into the machine before you tackle your next email.
You take the dog for a quick walk on your lunch break.
This is work-life integration.
Work-life integration acknowledges that work and life don’t fit neatly into separate little boxes anymore.
It’s no longer a case of separating and balancing these two priorities, but letting them play out alongside one another — and finding a way for them to coexist harmoniously.
By bringing work and life closer together, we can find the most logical and convenient time to complete all of the tasks that crop up in our daily lives, without having to stick to a traditional 9-to-5 schedule.
Why is work-life integration important?
As an employer, there are plenty of benefits to be gained from work-life integration.
Your employee experience improves. Employees get to realize their potential in all areas of their life. This means happier, more satisfied, and more motivated team members.
We know that workers are prioritizing flexibility when looking for new opportunities. So a focus on work-life integration supports talent acquisition and retention strategies too.
This is particularly true for businesses facing labor shortages. Employees are more likely to come work for you – and to stick around – when they get the flexibility they crave.
Another benefit? Because work-life integration helps employees to accommodate out-of-work responsibilities alongside their job, you end up with a more diverse workforce.
People with caring responsibilities, as well as those with health conditions or impairments, can fit work around other priorities. This means you get new perspectives and a bigger talent pool to fish from.
How can companies encourage work-life integration for their employees?
Sold on the idea of work-life integration? As an employer, you can encourage and support work-life integration amongst your workforce. Here’s how.
Create a dialogue
Work-life integration looks different for different employees. It varies from one person to the next, and even from one month to the next.
So talk to your employees. State your commitment to work-life integration. Find out what responsibilities and priorities they have away from the office. Try to discover what real flexibility looks like to them.
This is the first step to achieving those work-life integration goals.
Flexibility is the cornerstone of work-life integration. Employees need the freedom to meet their professional and personal responsibilities as they see fit.
Employers have to consider what, if anything, needs to be set in stone with regards to:
Do you need employees to come into the office for a set number of hours or on specific days each week? Are hybrid work meetings any less effective than traditional face-to-face get-togethers?
Wherever possible, give employees the flexibility to decide their own hybrid working split.
Again, how specific do you have to be when it comes to working location? Can employees work from home, from overseas, or from their local coffee shop?
Some companies are now adopting an unlimited paid time off policy for employees. This means — as long as productivity levels and targets are being met — employees don’t have a specified holiday allowance and can take vacation days whenever they want to.
Forget “working hours”
Get your managers to let go of the 9-to-5 and focus instead on the productivity of their team.
Employees don’t have to work a set number of hours at a set time of day, as long as they are getting their work done to the agreed standard.
This means workers have the flexibility to work when they feel at their most productive, whether that’s first thing in the morning, during traditional office hours, or later on in the evening.
They can also adjust their schedule on a week-by-week basis depending on life events and work deadlines.
Don’t let people overdo it
Work-life integration isn’t without its risks. When work can be picked up in any place, at any time of day, some employees will find it hard to switch off.
An “always on” mentality isn’t good for long-term employee mental health, wellbeing, or productivity. So watch out for signs of burnout.
Key indicators that your employee is experiencing a high level of sustained stress include the following:
- A previously sociable employee reduces their interaction with colleagues
- An employee suddenly stops producing high-quality work
- You can see that an employee is always available online
- An employee starts taking more sick days
- A previously positive employee seems negative and disconnected
If managers notice any of the warning signs above, have them reach out and help that person set healthy boundaries.
Work-life integration should be about making work fit better into everyday life — not allowing work to completely take over.
Find the right tech solutions
Without the right workplace technology, work-life integration just isn’t possible.
You need great software (and great IT teams to support it), so you can keep your people connected no matter where or when they’re working.
If you’ve already adopted a hybrid working model, you’re probably already using at least a few of the amazing tech tools available.
Think project management platforms, messaging apps, and workplace scheduling solutions.
Hybrid work software helps you to maintain channels of communication and streamline workflows to allow seamless transition from home to office and back again.
Tools that make hybrid working work for your team
When our professional and personal lives feel part of the same whole, the concept of work-life balance feels somewhat irrelevant.
Instead, it’s work-life integration that represents the new ideal.
Successful work-life integration means having the flexibility to achieve both professional and personal objectives at the time and in the place that best suits the individual.
With the right employer support — and workplace tech — we can embrace flexibility and all of the benefits it brings for both employees and organizations.
Want to help your employees with work-life integration? Smartway2’s smart scheduling solution could be just what you need.
We make it easy for your employees to book desk space and meeting rooms whenever and wherever they happen to be.
Request a free demo and discover how workplace scheduling can transform your company.