The once hot topic of “work-life balance” is losing support in favor of a theory that doesn’t sound all that different but is claimed to be not only better but more attainable.
The newer-kid-on-the-work/life/balance-block is work-life integration.
What are these two theories and how do they differ?
Kelsie Davis provides these basic definitions of each philosophy:
Work-life balance suggests “employees shouldn’t be entirely consumed by work responsibilities. Companies who advocate balance “are more likely to have generous, but still defined, vacation policies” and “encourage employees to work a pretty normal schedule (9-5ish) with a little flexibility. They also discourage workaholics.” Companies support an approach that’s more of a “hard, defined line between work and life designed to keep one from encroaching on the other.”
Work-life integration suggests an incorporation of “work and life into one conglomerate, fulfilling purpose…” Supporting companies are likely to have an undefined vacation policy with the understanding that employees won’t abuse it. They are “more likely to have a ‘just get the job done’ attitude . . . not caring in which hours the work is getting done . . . creating a more blurred line between work and life (but ideally, employees don’t become overwhelmed by work or too consumed by life).”
As one would expect, each philosophy has it advocates and nay-sayers.
Team work-life balance maintains:
People need a definite end to the work day.
- This hard line protects them from being always “on call”.
- Defined hours provide accountability.
Team work-life integration claims:
- Allowing people to work when and where it best suits them is preferable.
- Taking full advantage of the flexibility afforded by technology is a win-win situation—even at 10 pm.
- People can “manage” themselves and be trusted to get the job done.
The advancements in technology have progressed to where being “always on” and “always connected” are considered the norm. Therefore, it’s easy to see how a hard line between work and life has become much more difficult to maintain and to some employees, is now seen as less desirable.
In today’s world and across many employment scenarios, life and work surely have meshed—a situation that more closely relates to “integration” than it does to the idea of “balance.”
While for some, the idea of after-hours work is at best unpleasant, at worst unthinkable, others see it as somewhere between a solution to a hectic schedule and the best possible scenario.
Personal preferences aside, work-life integration continues to gain traction as a more viable way to attain both the career achievements and the family/leisure life most people desire. In the next installment, we’ll delve further into the pros, cons and specifics that distinguish the two theories.
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