In May 2019, the World Health Organization finally classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon. But as businesses grappled with ways to address the issue, a brand new challenge appeared out of nowhere: Covid-19, which forced millions of people to work from home.
In the first part of 2020, it seemed that remote work brought greater productivity and a better lifestyle. But, it turned out that remote workers were not more efficient. They were, in fact, spending as much as 30% more time on their jobs.
With this in mind, we may be looking for efficient ways to create cohesion between professional and personal endeavors. And, it turns out there are two possible approaches: work-life balance and work-life integration. These are the pros and cons of each.
The idea behind work-life balance consists of a clearly defined boundary between work-related and leisurely activities. For many people, it is the perfect philosophy. But, like any other approach, it has its upsides and downsides.
The biggest pro for work-life balance is that it creates a distinction between business and play. Therefore, it allows professionals to take control of their own time. In addition to minimizing excessively long hours, this approach also highlights the importance of taking regular breaks. Unfortunately, though, achieving a healthy work-life balance is not possible for everyone.
For business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, the biggest con is time-related. These individuals do not necessarily have the luxury of working 40-hour [or shorter] weeks. Moreover, many of them consider their jobs to be a source of enjoyment. Or, they may even find long work hours to be a necessity to achieving financial stability.
For some people, their professional schedules or sensibilities do not support the adoption of a work-life balance philosophy. Now, that's where the idea of work-life integration may seem more appealing.
This approach does not rely on boundaries. Instead, it aims to bring the professional and personal closer together, into a state of synergy by focusing on four different areas of life:
Overall, the most significant benefit of integration is that it focuses on flexibility. It allows people to model their workdays and off-time based on their specific needs. That way, they can shift more easily between priorities based on what they're focusing on at the moment.
Nonetheless, integration also comes with serious drawbacks. First and foremost, it requires high-level self-management and organizational skills. Secondly, it is almost impossible without the mastery of mindfulness techniques and a healthy approach to personal limits.
Knowing the difference between work-life balance and integration, you might be wondering which works better for you. And the truth is, there's no definitive answer. Each individual will have unique needs, and different career paths often require varying solutions.
The best course of action would be to choose one direction and to adapt it to your needs. To get the best possible results, try to back up your approach with the right strategies. Timeboxing, for example, is an excellent time-management method suitable for those who choose work-life integration. It dedicates blocks of time to various activity categories, like attending meetings, practicing self-care, or running errands.
Or, if that does not sound like a good solution for your situation, you may want to look into options that could free up hours in your day, whether by hiring help or outsourcing some of your work. That way, you can dedicate your attention to the tasks and activities that offer high value to you without creating a schedule with which you can not keep up.
Finally, for either balance or integration to yield the desired results, you have to learn how to set professional and personal boundaries. Because, without having rules in place about how you divide your time and what aspects of your life you prioritize, you will never be able to do everything. You will just be pushing yourself to the limit, trying to stretch yourself too thin in an attempt to get everything done.
As you can see, there are both pros and cons to approaching the relationship between business and personal time either as a balance or an integration. Fortunately, though, you can learn a lot by accepting the main idea behind the two: a healthy relationship to work, family, wellbeing, community, and time. Ultimately, that is what matters the most. And, the exact label you slap
onto your approach is entirely up to you.