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Alan Price



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Work-life balance is outdated: Why HR should focus on integration

With the rise of remote and hybrid work environments in an increasingly flexible and shifting world, could it be time to send the concept of ‘work-life balance’ out to pasture?
photo of silhouette photo of man standing on rock representing work-life balance and integration

In today’s fast-paced world, the line between work and life can become increasingly blurred. 

To stave off looming burnout, time spent on your professional life and time spent on your personal one must be balanced delicately. 

To make matters even more difficult though, this looks different for each unique person. 

For years, the accepted method for managing your personal and professional needs has been one of ‘work-life balance’. 

But with the rise of remote and hybrid work environments in an increasingly flexible and shifting world, it might be time to send that concept out to pasture and retire it entirely.

Integration aims to create flow and harmony between all aspects of a person’s life

Work-life balance vs work-life integration: Which is better?

The idea of work-life balance was first introduced way, way back in 1910. 

And while we may think our jobs are as bad as our Edwardian forebearers, it’s safe to say the world of working has changed dramatically since then. 

The problem with the idea of balance is not only that it’s outdated, but it’s rigid and uncompromising. 

Your life is divided into two strictly defined parts, with no wiggle room between them. 

But in more recent years, work-life integration is an emerging idea that aims to offer employees flexibility and synergy. 

Perks of integration

If you’ve not noticed by now, human beings are complex creatures. We acknowledge that we’re different, and yet our working patterns remain decidedly … very similar indeed.

Work-life integration acknowledges this problem and tries to work with it. Here are some example scenarios:

  • You may thrive earlier in the morning whereas a colleague might want to come in at 10am so they can hit the gym first
  • You may need to leave early for an appointment, but finish up that project afterwards on your laptop at home
  • Or you may opt to take a conference call on the way to pick up your child from school

Integration aims to create flow and harmony between all aspects of a person’s life. 

Instead of strictly defining when you are working, and when you are at home, responsibilities are fulfilled to a schedule that fits the employee best. 

Employees are treated as adults, and as long as their obligations are met and tasks are completed on time, they’re free to pursue personal duties as they wish. 

This merged approach to work and life can result in greater productivity, job satisfaction and employee engagement. And we all like a bit of that, don’t we?

Responsibilities are fulfilled to a schedule that fits the employee best

Where does HR come into all this?

As an HR professional, it’s your job to evaluate your employees’ work-life needs and create a healthy, productive and flexible work environment. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to assessing these needs though, otherwise, that would sort of defeat the point.

The most effective way to gain insights and shape work-life programmes is by conducting employee engagement surveys. What common obstacles do your team face that stop them from being able to give 100%? 

Once you’ve received the results, you can implement a comprehensive integration strategy. 

But you need to clearly define your business objectives: how integration will work, and how you’ll determine productivity levels. 

Employees need to know what you expect of them and how they can meet those goals if you want to see success. 

As an HR professional, it’s your job to evaluate your employees’ work-life needs

What strategies can I employ to get the most out of my team?

Once you’ve evaluated your teams’ work-life needs, you can build a better integration strategy for your business. An effective strategy can help employees feel happier, less stressed, and more in control of their work and their lives. 

Here are some tried and tested ideas:

  • Incorporate yoga, exercise and walking clubs into the workplace
  • Consider if occasional or part-time working from home is right for your business and your team
  • Allow flexibility in employee schedules, implementing ‘core hours’ where appropriate but allowing employees to otherwise work to the schedules that best suit them
  • Provide access to childcare services, where this is a possibility
  • Implement software solutions and automate tasks where necessary so employees can dedicate more time to those more important projects
  • Make meetings meaningful – define clear goals at the beginning or in your agenda and ditch those meetings that are unnecessary time-wasters

In a nutshell, integration should be about maximising flexibility for your employees. Anything constrictive of their schedule or working style should be avoided and instead, opt for more human-centric work options.

This will allow work to be completed to the highest standard and accommodate each employee’s personal life. A win-win!

Integration should be about maximising flexibility for your employees

Integration hiccups: What are the bumps in the road?

With new concepts of working arrangements come new risks, and integration is no exception. Some of the potential challenges include:

  • Employees may feel pressured to work more: As work and life begin to peacefully coexist for some, others have difficulty separating the two. All work and no play makes Jack burned out. Or something to that effect
  • It’s not for everyone: Those of us with more rigid schedules that might not afford any degree of flexibility may struggle, as will those who must prefer more structure when it comes to getting stuff done
  • It’s not the easiest to ‘integrate’: Combining work and home life requires a solid plan to succeed. It requires trust from the employer, and strict schedule management from the employee, otherwise, it can spiral faster than a week one task on The Apprentice

It’s up to you whether integration is the right solution for your business, and it’s worth taking the time to think about that, as the benefits can be enormous.

Striking that perfect balance between work and personal time isn’t always possible

Embracing integration

The workplace is changing faster than ever. And while the idea of ‘balance’ may still be preferable for some, for many of us, striking that perfect balance between work and personal time isn’t always possible.

Integration aims to give employees freedom and flexibility on a case-by-case basis, so they don’t compromise on their work or personal lives. 

While there are challenges to this concept, those of us confident enough to embrace this new form of working will see improved morale, job satisfaction, productivity and employee retention.

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out: How do you know if your hybrid approach is working?

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