Say Goodbye To Work Life Balance.Say Hello To Work Life Integration

BlogHer Original Post

If a term is not in Wikipedia does that term really exist?

Work life integration has not found its way to Wikipedia just quite yet. But, in writing about newly released report on the future of work life in Great Britain, John Carvel, social affairs editor for The Guardian writes,

Dreams of a future when technological advances would liberate us from the daily drudge and allow more time for leisure appear to be fading, with futurologists predicting less talk about "work-life balance" and more about "work-life integration".

The report by the Chartered Management Institute, Britain's leading management institute, says the combination of the need to reduce the carbon footprint caused by commuting and the need of workers to take care of older relatives is"leading to a blurring of boundaries between family and career."

And there you have it. I think. Since the article doesn't actually define work life integration, Its up to readers to infer its meaning. I'm inferring that work life integration is of particular concern to virtual workers because their family life and work life coexist in the same footprint.

According to the report that blurring is going to increase because virtual working is going to change dramatically. Today,if someone is a virtual worker for a major corporation they are expected to work a regular schedule.That means being available during the standard work day.

However, as the futurists look ahead, working nine to five may just be known as the title of a Dolly Parton song and not something that people spend their time doing.

This may mean workers abandoning traditional shifts. People may work from home on assignments during specific time slots, or be available on call when work needs to be done.

They will communicate by high-speed broadband, perhaps supplemented by hologram technology permitting virtual presence at meetings.

Many talented people would become "multi-employed", some working for a day or two a week in "third place locations" outside their organisations or home office.

As work becomes more project-based, people will need to use specialised services to market themselves for individual ad hoc projects.

The life they are describing is the life many of us who are independent consultants already lead. The very nature of being a consultant with a home based business demands work/life integration.

The difference is all about choice. This is the life I have chosen to lead. People who are seeking work/life balance may find this new virtual worklife daunting because work life integration comes with the package. It's one thing to leave the office behind when its 12 miles down the road. It's another challenge to leave work behind when its sitting on the kitchen table and you have to push it away to make room for dinner.

While the Charter Management Institute focused on what business will look like in Great Britain in 2018, A Hudson survey supports that American workers already want what the futurists say our work life will be like in the next decade.

From Cindy Kirscher Goodman's The Work/Life Balancing Act,

According to a new Hudson survey, nearly a third (29 percent) of U.S. workers now consider work-life balance and flexibility to be the most important factor in considering job offers."Money will always be important to people, but in this age of Internet powered remote access where there are so many virtual options, employees place a much higher premium on flexible work arrangements," said Robert Morgan, co-president of Recruitment and Talent Management, Hudson.

Perhaps they are equating flexibility with work life balance. Having worked as an independent consultant for over 10 years I can tell you that I have lots of flexibility and very little balance. However, writing in The Huffington Post Lisa Earle McLeod says not to worry, work life balance "is a crock." *

The problem isn't lack of balance. It's that we've sub-divided our lives into a series of endless to-dos that hold no meaning for us whatsoever.

The truth is, balance isn't a strategy, it's a tactic, and a reactive one at that. And you don't create success or happiness with tactics. Think about it. Do you know anyone who achieved nirvana by mastering the art of the Franklin Planner?

It's no coincidence that when people talk about balance they're usually lamenting their lack of it.

Responding to Earle Macleod's rant,Carmine Coyote at Slow Leadership offers up her definition of work life balance.

What work/life balance really means

The answer lies in the same quote I just gave from Ms. Earle Macleod’s article: people seem to need both pleasure and purpose in their lives to feel good about themselves. And since it’s tough to find both in the same place — pleasure tends to be found more outside of work and purpose more within it (though not exclusively in either case) — the real meaning of work/life balance is to allocate time sensibly between those areas, so that pleasure and purpose both result

Which brings me back to the differences in work life balance and work life integration.

Work Life Balance is a tough goal for many of us. Our lives are not balanced.They are not going to be "balanced" in the foreseeable future. Just thinking about work life balance can ruin your day. Thinking about it makes us feel like failures

Work Life Integration has a much more positive flavor to it. While it may be a new trend, it's something I've been doing for 12 years .It's not a balanced life but its definitely an integrated life. I've achieved work life integration and I didn't even know I was doing it.

So I'm feeling quite successful this morning.I'm ahead of the curve. A trendsetter. Which is always a lovely way to start the day.

Elana blogs about business culture at FunnyBusiness

*In 2007 I did some work for the PR firm that represented Lisa Earle McLeod. I am no longer associated with that firm.

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