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Work-life integration: What it is and 5 ways to develop it

December 28, 2022 - 18 min read
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    Work and life have integrated more than ever before. With employees working from kitchen tables and living room couches, it’s impossible to spot the difference between home and work. 

    The pandemic spurred a work-life integration that spiraled into a brimming burnout crisis. 95% of human resources executives admit that employee burnout is a leading cause of workforce turnover. Thus, enabling a healthy work-life balance is a major challenge for organizations today.

    The rise in remote work has also blurred the lines between personal and work time, making it more difficult to achieve work-life balance. And due to the rise in business demands, work schedules have become more hectic.

    With these changes, we're seeing a rise in work-life integration over work-life balance for managers and their teams.

    This article will explore work-life integration and how it differs from work-life balance. We’ll also talk about how you can foster it within your team to see better results for your company.

    What is meant by work-life integration? 

    Work-life integration is integrating one's work and life to complement and support each other. It's the process of allowing space for both work and your personal life so that you can feel fulfilled in both aspects.

    With work-life integration, you efficiently coordinate your workday schedules and personal responsibilities, ensuring personal and professional productivity and higher satisfaction.

    But work-life integration isn't about finding a 'perfect' balance between work and life.  It’s about finding a balance that works for you. It'll look different for everyone and change over time as your circumstances change. The key is to create a balance that works for you and be flexible and adaptable as your employee needs change.

    At BetterUp, we've studied a whole-person approach to how employees show up as themselves at work. Backed by science and rooted in positive psychology, the Whole Person Model is a holistic way to support personal thriving in all domains of work and personal life.

    Work-life integration vs. work-life balance

    Although work-life balance and work-life integration share the same goal of achieving a balance between our professional and personal life, the approach is quite different.

    Let's take a closer look at how work-life integration differs from work-life balance and its pros and cons.

    Work-life balance

    Work-life balance is the term used to describe the ideal situation in which a person can effectively manage their work commitments and home life without one adversely affecting the other.

    Maintaining a good work-life balance enables employees to remain organized and focused at work and home. This way, they can concentrate solely on work-related tasks during workday hours and disconnect from work during personal hours to fully engage in their personal lives. This enables employees to avoid burnout and live a more balanced, fulfilling life.

    However, it comes with its pros and cons.

    Work-life balance benefits

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    Work-life balance challenges

    • Achieving a complete work-life balance may be unrealistic as your business grows and responsibilities increase in the long-run

    • As employees are expected to give their 100% in their limited time, communication and the chance to build healthy relationships with colleagues are limited

    • A slight fluctuation in their work-life balance might lead to increased stress and decreased productivity

    Work-life integration

    A work-life integration approach is an evolved version of work-life balance, emphasizing the integration of personal and professional responsibilities. As opposed to work-life balance, which implies scales tip in one direction or another, work-life integration suggests finding harmony.

    Employees choose when they tackle their duties rather than drawing lines between personal and work time.

    However, work-life integration has pros and cons, too.

    Work-life integration benefits

    • With work-life integration, employees can give equitable attention to all aspects of their lives without sacrificing one for the other, enhancing their well-being and mental health 

    • Achieving work-life integration is much more realistic and practical
    • Employees feel a sense of empowerment when in control of their own time, which in turn improves confidence and self-esteem
    • The flexibility that comes with work-life integrations can help organizations boost their productivity. According to one survey, 43% of respondents said that flexibility in working hours enhanced their productivity

    Work-life integration challenges

    • Although employees can choose their work hours, they might feel guilty about doing less work here and there. Employees who are always integrated with work may never have time to take time off and recharge. This can negatively affect their performance and lead to burnout

    • Work-life integration can be challenging to maintain without self-discipline and a clear plan
    • Work-life integration requires support from the workplace and the family to make it work
    two parents working at table with young child

    5 ways to create work-life integration for employees

    Employers play a significant role in determining how their employees achieve work-life integration. By understanding the needs of their team, employers can create an environment that enables work-life integration.

    Here's how you can support and facilitate work-life integration for your employees:

    Evaluate the work-life needs of your employees

    Evaluating employees' work-life needs helps create a healthy and productive work environment. But there's no one-size-fits-all approach to assessing these needs.

    The best way to do this is to conduct routine company-wide employee engagement surveys. You'll learn invaluable insights that help you shape existing strategies and work-life programs.

    Formulate a work-life integration strategy

    Once you've evaluated your employees' work-life needs, you can build a work-life integration strategy for your organization.

    An effective work-life integration strategy can help employees achieve a better work-life balance.

    Your work-life integration strategy might include the following:

    • Incorporating yoga, exercise, and walking clubs into the workplace

    • Allowing occasional or part-time work from home
    • Offering continuous learning opportunities for upskilling
    • Providing access to childcare or eldercare services
    • Automating administrative tasks so employees have more time for meaningful work

    Take a look at Buffer, the social media management software that offers employees perks like a four-day workweek, remote work, and unlimited PTO. The company states that 91% of its team are happier and more productive.

    Let employees choose their most productive hours

    Encouraging employees to choose their most productive hours for work is vital to get the most out of them. By doing so, you will be able to ensure that they are working when they are at their best and can produce the highest quality work. This will, in turn, lead to increased productivity and efficiency in the workplace, which benefits both you and the employee.

    Here is an example of an insur-tech company called Root. Root offers a flexible work environment to boost productivity, allowing employees to choose where and how they work.

    Leverage the right tools and technology

    Organizations must provide the right tools to maximize employee productivity in and outside the office.

    With the right platforms, employees can stay connected and collaborative, even when working from home. Team leaders can follow work processes in real-time using software solutions such as Trello or Asana, enabling agile project management.

    In the wake of the pandemic, Adobe adopted a virtual workplace and became a digital-first organization. Leveraging the right technology, Adobe achieved the No. 1 ranking for happiest employees and a record revenue of $4.11 billion in 2021.

    Create employee awareness programs

    Work-life integration awareness programs are initiatives to assist employees in transitioning from their old way of working life. By educating employees on how to integrate their work and personal life, they will be better equipped to manage their time, leading to a more productive and happier workforce.

    Awareness programs on work-life integration provide tools and resources to achieve a healthy balance. They also create a supportive environment and community to hold employees accountable.

    smiling woman sitting at desk with laptop

    How leaders can create work-life integration for themselves

    Today's workplace can be demanding, especially for leaders and startup founders tempted by hustle culture. With long work hours and constant deadlines, it's easy to let your work life consume you.

    However, you must remember that as a leader, it's your responsibility to set the tone for your team. Championing work-life integration for yourself is crucial because your example signals what you expect from employees.

    Here are a few tips that can help you craft good work-life integration for yourself:

    • Try to ignore feelings of guilt or perfectionism. As leaders, more often than not, you fall into the guilt trip of not being able to work on certain things or taking time for yourself. You need to understand that working all the time only leads to burnout, and it's okay to cut yourself some slack now and then.
    • Be flexible with your schedule. A flexible work schedule leaves space for unexpected tasks while also managing your day-to-day work.
    • Prioritize and delegate your work. When you have a lot on your plate, it's imperative to prioritize and delegate tasks to stay on top of everything. This will help you focus on essential tasks and free up your personal time for other activities.
    • Create a work-life integration to-do list. Creating a to-do list that includes both your professional and personal responsibilities allows you to plan your day to achieve both.
    • Take proper breaks. Taking time to recharge your mental batteries is essential for your personal well-being and helps you think clearer, make better decisions and be more patient and understanding. When you take the time to look inward to your authentic self and experiences (also known as Inner Work®), you avoid burnout, increase your confidence, and become a stronger leader.

    Start championing work-life integration with your teams

    As companies and employees strive to balance work and life, championing work-life integration is critical.

    Hopefully, this article has helped you better understand work-life integration and how to build a culture that enhances employee engagement, improves work satisfaction, and increases retention.

    Consider virtual coaching if you’re struggling with implementing work-life integration with your teams. With BetterUp, your people can receive personalized support to navigate challenges, manage priorities, and make intelligent decisions.

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    Published December 28, 2022

    Maggie Wooll

    Managing Editor

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