How you can achieve Work-Life Integration

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

Have you ever wondered how you can create more harmony between your home life and your career? Does work-life balance seem illusive? Don't worry, it's illusive to all of us because it does not exist! Work-life integration is more attainable, that's right, not balance, integration.

What's the difference between work-life balance and work-life integration? Well, by definition, work-life balance seeks to achieve an ideal state where your work and life coexist and thrive separately; while work-life integration is about bringing work and life closer together as one.

Basically, work-life integration is the version of you that has time to enjoy all the different parts of your life that light you up and feed your soul alongside a fulfilling and rewarding career.

Work-life integration is the new work-life balance.

According to UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, work-life integration is "an approach that creates more synergies between all areas that define 'life': like- work, home/family, community, personal well-being, and health."

This approach emphasizes gentle pivots rather than hard boundaries between different areas of life.

To give you an example of work-life integration, here is how my days go:

  • wake up and spend some self-care time (writing intentions, reading, saying affirmations, meditation, tabata)

  • breakfast with the kids and then get them situated for school/busy time

  • then I work from 9am to noon

  • make lunch and stretch then spend 15-20 minutes outside for Vitamin D

  • attend a zoom meeting or 2 in the afternoon

  • after school, play with the kids outside and go for a walk or bike ride

  • then we make dinner

  • lastly respond to emails and finish up for a couple hours after the kids go to bed

Sometimes there are phone calls and emails and other work that needs to get done and because of the flexibility that I allow throughout the day, it gets done. I am able to shift things around with ease.

The flexibility offered by work-life integration is ideal for working moms. This gives us the ability to shape our own workday and create our own version of "balance". For those of us who are juggling kids and other activities, it seems like the best way to have and do it all.

But, word of caution, for some mompreneurs work-life integration is not a perfect solution because the to-do list seems endless and you may be tempted to fill every ounce of time with work and possibly neglect your health, community, and family…I’ve been there. Years ago when I was the director of marketing for Panera, I was a workaholic. I literally filled in every single minute of the day and my husband would question me as to why I did it all the time. And while I still got to take my kids to school and pick them up, attend field trips and volunteer in class, I neglected my my physical and mental health and because I suffer from high functioning anxiety, I just kept going and going…which lead to a decline in my overall health.

Not that long ago, it was a badge of honor to work a 6 or 7-day week and a 10 or 12-hour day. Thankfully, that work-hard, play-hard mentality is falling to the wayside as we, as a society, begin to realize the harm that comes with trying to “have it all.”

And with this pandemic, I think employers have been forced into realizing the value in remote work.

We’re beginning to understand that personal wellness is important and that mental health should take a priority. These topics are not taboo conversations anymore. And it's about time!!!!

Achieving the level of personal wellness that works for you as an individual often means letting go of trying to be “perfect” in every aspect of your life, and just shooting for your own personal meaning of “excellent.” And with this pandemic, some of us have the ability to create work-life integration on our terms and achieve what “excellent” looks like to us. Again, it is unique to each of us. I encourage you to figure out what this could look like for you.

Its easy to get tripped up though because its very easy to integrate work into every area of our life without integrating much of life into our workday. Its also very easy find yourself constantly thinking about work even when you want to pay attention to others priorities. Being mindful becomes a struggle because our work responsibilities have a way of feeling far more urgent than the everyday needs of our family or even ourselves. As Stephen Covey writes in First Things First, "Some of us get so used to the adrenaline rush of handling crises that we become dependent on it for a sense of excitement and energy."

If we are addicted to the urgent needs of work, then those pressing things will always capture our attention over our kids and our personal needs. This addiction will lead to us paying attention to our work first--unless we are intentionally and choose make our family and our health a priority!

SO, first thing’s first: lets address that thing in your pocket, or on the table next to you, or maybe charging just a few feet away or that you are reading this on...your smartphone.

About 77% of Americans have one and while smart devices can be fantastic tools because we've got the answer to almost any question at our fingertips, and we can reach anyone, at any time, anywhere in the world, and our phone acts like a million tools in one {thanks to smart applications} they are also wreaking havoc on our personal time outside of work…thus causing their to be a major imbalance in our lives.

Unfortunately, our technology makes us accessible to our employers (and employees alike) around the clock, and because most of us are glued to our phones anyway, it can be difficult to draw boundaries between work life and personal life.

This compounding stress from these never-ending days is hurting us all. It’s hurting our relationships with loved ones, it’s harming our health, and is most definitely affecting our overall happiness.

Studies have shown that stress from work can be just as dangerous as second-hand smoke and that high job demands increase the odds of having a doctor-diagnosed illness by 35%!

Research has also shown us that long work hours increase the chances of early death by 20%. And, long-term overworking can lead to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, and a weakened immune system. Thats a wake up call.

A second step to achieving work-life integration is learning when to unplug. Its a big step in ensuring that your relationship with time is healthy and by being able to first to identify what’s important in your life and keep those things your top priority, you're setting the tone for how your days will play out.

I'll give you an example- turning off notifications for Facebook ad Instagram and for work email on my phone so that I'm not tempted to respond during my personal time is one great way I am able establish clear boundaries.

We all know that there are times when you just have to turn off your phone and enjoy the moment. Those pesky notifications not only interrupt our personal time with kids and family and our self-care time, but it sends deeper signals to our psyche, alerting our mind of things unfinished (notifications unchecked and it drives me crazy), and sends stress hormones coursing through our system. By not reacting to notifications, you’ll develop stronger habits of resilience, and resilient people feel a greater sense of control over their lives in general. I have Facebook ad Instagram notifications off….indefinitely and I have intentional time that I go in to check both for work and personal use.

So, to sum this up, if you love what you do then passion and purpose will properly blend work and life and you will make work-life integration truly work for you.

Here are some simple suggestions that work for me:

  • Change your mindset because the idea of work-life balance versus integration is a mental game- remember that work is a natural part of life and shouldn’t be looked down upon.

  • Keep a schedule, establish good boundaries and track what you’re doing. Ideally, work in short time blocks and focus on productivity, not on time spent doing the task.

  • To make sure that you are actually making time in your day to focus on priorities outside of work, and schedule it! Though it may feel strange to formally schedule activities like "family dinner" or “do yoga," doing so will make it far more likely that these activities actually happen. The key here is to be flexible throughout the day and if you have to move things around, then do it but make it a point to try do whats scheduled.

  • Coordinate with your significant other and find your ideal work environment and adjust your expectations. If you have a partner, make sure that your schedule complements theirs, and that you are prioritizing the greatest needs of your family. Work-life integration should make your family life easier, not harder.

  • Remain committed to some boundaries. Turn off notifications and set specific selfceare and family time.

  • Learn to say “no.” Learning to say “no” is so important to work-life integration. That is being able to say NO to everyone… not just work people. For many of us, saying ‘no’ can be difficult bc we’re only human and we don't want to upset anyone.

But let me tell you right now: It’s okay to say no. More importantly, you SHOULD say no every once in a while, especially if you have other things that you need to tend to, even if that other thing that you have to tend to is your own self-care.

Even if it’s a little bit awkward, say no.

You can even use this template, written by strategist, Alexandra Franzen, for The Muse:

Hey ,

Thanks for your note.

I’m so proud of you for ___—and I’m flattered that you’d like to bring my brain into the mix.

I need to say “no,” because ___.

But I would love to support you in a different way.

Thank you for being such a wonderful ___. I am honored to be part of your world.

We all want our lives to be richly filled with meaningful work and meaningful relationships. Work-life integration, just like work-life balance, is a helpful framework to help us do this, but the secret to prioritizing what we value most is in the execution.

Work-life integration means something different to everyone. What IS important is for you to practice self-care, make time for your mental and physical health, because in the end, the highest thing that should be on your ‘to-do’ list, should always be YOU!

There is no perfect way to do this, but with practice, we can get a little closer to trying to have it all, on our terms.

Let’s connect!

Follow along:

The Gram



Prosper & Flourish podcast

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