Is Your WorkLife Balance out of Whack?

Worklife balance has been touted as essential for attracting and retaining employees. Who doesn’t want to kick off early on Fridays, be free to take their kid to a dentist appointment in the middle of the day, or have four weeks’ vacation?

Well, sure, people want that. No dispute. But the old model of worklife balance is an unrealistic and unsophisticated approach to how people – especially Millenials – are actually living.

“Worklife balance” implies that work and life are at opposite ends of a spectrum, that work is necessary but life is preferable. That work starts at 9 am, and life starts at 5 pm. That allowing a little life to interfere with your work is a big privilege.

But with Millenials flooding the workplace – a generation that is almost always plugged in, that is more likely to work remotely, that is more likely to have multiple jobs at the same time, and that wants to make a positive impact with their work – a job is not just a job anymore. It’s a way of living, not just a way to make a living.

Worklife integration

Future of Work thought leaders see worklife balance being replaced by the idea of work integrating with life.  Integrating life into work, seamless and complementary, with technology making it possible. Worklife integration is about letting people choose how, when and where they work. And let them live their lives at the same time.

I had an interesting interchange on Twitter recently. In commenting on an article about worklife balance, I referenced the growing trend of worklife integration. I got a tweet from a stranger asking me what that meant. Constricted by 140 characters, I replied: “Work doesn’t end at 5 pm, and then life starts. It’s a blend.”

His response? “That sounds terrible.”

Well, I don’t think it does is mean

  1. Everything is always about work.
  2. You can’t unplug and go on vacation.
  3. You have to choose a work engagement over an important life situation.
  4. An obligation to respond to work email on Sunday morning – unless that’s what you want to do. And smart companies don’t expect it from you.

These caveats are the “life” part of worklife integration.

What Does WorkLife Integration Look Like?

Letting employees make choices about how, where and when they work means goodbye to regular work hours. Managers of remote workers are already familiar with that. As a result of the pandemic working from home is a new normal, and so this flexibility is extending to in-office employees too.

When employees get to choose how they work best, productivity rises and so does job satisfaction. The days of “just showing up” are over. Performance is judged not by seeing people at work, but by evaluating the product of their work.

Employee engagement is key

What the integration model does, however, is rely on employee engagement. This is what truly drives the functionality of giving employees choice over how they work. For disengaged employees, work is an obligation they have to fulfil to get a paycheck. But employers should trust that engaged workers, by and large, will do what is needed to get the work done. They’re just not necessarily doing it on a time clock.

What if instead of increasing productivity by working harder, we worked better? Worked when we’re most energized, inspired and driven? In turn, we let life blend in with work because, really, it’s going to anyway.

  • About the Author
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Hi, I’m Scott King. I’m a collaboration expert. I’m an engineer and endurance athlete, and co-founder of ReadyTalk, a Cloud Communications Provider that helps companies have more effective meetings and deliver high impact webinars. I want to learn something from every situation, push myself to personal bests, give back in meaningful ways – and have fun doing it.
I explore ways to enhance how we exchange ideas. To bring design, technology, organizational structure and leadership techniques together to make workplaces more creative and productive.
I’m really excited about the “Future of Work,” specifically: how worklife integration is evolving; how to increase productivity by encouraging people to choose the places and tools that let them work best; and how to improve organizational communications so creativity flourishes, and people feel empowered.