Work/Life Integration: The New Way

There continues to be a lot of talk lately about “work/life balance.” You’ve heard the arguments – people need to be able to balance their family and personal lives with their professional selves. Quite frankly, there aren’t enough hours in the day to participate fully in both. As we all know, life happens during that 9-5 (or 8-6) work window and can’t be ignored.

As Millennials began entering the workplace, they introduced a whole new set of ideas and demands regarding work/life balance. They started to change up the way traditional business operated and are a strong part of the reason (along with the emergence and growth of technology) as to why we have more flexibility now than ever before. But let me tell you something; Millennials don’t want work/life balance, they want work/life integration. These two words may sound like synonyms to some, but they are extremely different.

So what is the difference? For the Traditionalists, Baby Boomers and many of the Gen X folks, life is compartmentalized into work and home. You step from one box into the other and one must respect those boundaries. Today, not everyone may desire work/life integration since everyone has different preferences when it comes to their work style and jobs. However, we’ve seen a large movement in favor of this work style, and research shows that there are many benefits to integrating both work and life.

Work/life integration focuses on the idea of blending the personal and professional selves versus compartmentalizing, in order to be most successful and involved in both. Although work/life balance was a good first step, as we’ve grown as a culture, we’ve come to the realization that it may not be practical to keep both identities separate or compartmentalized. Work life integration is becoming the new norm.

Here are a few reasons why we are moving so quickly toward work/life integration:

More remote workers/freelancers – There are more remote workers and freelancers now than ever before. Offsite employees and virtual offices have increased dramatically over the past few years, and for good reason. Research shows that remote workers or freelance hires are just as productive as employees in the office. Remote offices also save money for organizations and costs. At the end of the day, employees should be rewarded based on the work they produce, not how much face time they spend in the office. Companies are finally starting to grasp and embrace that.

Technology – Obviously, work/life integration would not be possible without technology. Laptops, the Internet, cell phones, video conferencing and email allow employees to work virtually anywhere with connectivity! It is now possible to answer emails and submit proposals late at night, while traveling, or even on weekends, whereas in the past this was not the case.

Productivity – Think about it: where are you most productive? The answer for many of you may not be “in the office,” especially depending on what type of field you are in. Studies have shown that some people are more productive in the comfort of their own space, while others may produce better work in a quiet area like a library or study. Again, everybody has their own preferences and companies that embrace work/life integration with flexible policies allow workers to be their most productive selves, whatever that may mean.

Boundaries are blurred – Let’s face it, the boundaries between work life and personal life are blurred. This holds especially true for employees who are caregiving for children and/or elderly parents. Sometimes “life” cannot be ignored. By mastering work/life integration, companies are giving employees the freedom to float between both throughout the day. Employees, in turn, are less stressed and more productive, as they have the ability to manage their own time effectively.

Happier employees – Giving employees the power of choice leads to happier workers overall. Whether they choose to make use of flexible policies or not, having the choice to do so creates a positive company culture. Happy employees have higher retention rates and stay with companies for longer, so everybody wins.

Clearly, there are many reasons why we are moving toward work/life integration – and even more reasons as to why this is a good thing. Teams will be stronger and more efficient in the long run, and employees will be happier and more engaged when they have more control over their schedules.

What do you think about the concept of work/life integration? Do you feel like employees would benefit from greater flexibility? Share your opinion with us below.