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  • Writer's pictureNisha Sashidharan, Head of Marketing

Understanding Work-Life Integration

Work and life integration is an idea unclear to many. Most of us come from mindsets that advocate work prioritization to enjoy life. But, only if it were true! With the recent transformations, it is time to embrace a more holistic strategy work-life integration that unifies the two.

What is work-life integration?

An ideal lifestyle does not have to be in parts; this is what work-life integration argues. Work-life integration is the idea of melding your work and life to lead a fulfilling life. As said by Burke, "Work-life integration focuses on blending personal and professional responsibilities. Rather than drawing lines between 'personal time' and 'work time,' employees choose when to tackle their responsibilities at the best times."

During the pandemic, we unknowingly applied work-life integration strategies at various levels. The adjustments we made to be there for our loved ones while meeting our professional responsibilities could be a practical execution of work-life integration. 

Is "work-life integration" different from "work-life balance"?

Work-life balance could be a myth. For instance, having a non-stop 9-5 blocked work time, with the hope of enjoying the rest of your day with family or doing an activity you love, could be a daily concept of work-life balance. But we all know how that ends straight in bed, right? We are entirely devoid of energy. We barely even get a chance to acknowledge our well-being. It is exhaustive! Work-life balance draws a line between work and life, where the latter is served with leftovers - making it an unbalanced approach.

Additionally, there is an increase in stress levels because of work-life mismatch that has resulted in great resignation from the culture of work-ism. The World Health Organization, in May 2019, deemed burnout as a syndrome that is understood to be spawning due to chronic workplace stress.

That said, work-life integration is precisely the solution to this. It integrates the two work and life, so you do not have to relinquish either. In a work and life integration approach, your work time is not set aside in blocks. Instead, you may take a call or attend a meeting while completing a few chores. You can keep your body moving and work flowing hand in hand. Similarly, you could be sitting at a park enjoying nature and check emails side by side. The bigger picture is to "get the work done in your way."

Besides, be it work-life balance or work-life integration, both the aspects work and life are not supposed to compete on the priority list. Regardless, the execution of a work-life integration model is easier said than done, and some work profiles are too physically or mentally exhaustive to attain any. 

What are some challenges of work-life integration?

An innovative approach to work-life is bound to have challenges. They may vary in levels for every individual. Hence, every individual must plan and communicate their work-life integration strategy. However, some challenges are often inevitable, like:

  • Work-life integration is not exclusive to all. An employee who might like to be more organized and focused may find it hard to adapt.

  • Juggling around with work and life might require multi-tasking skills; else, the effectiveness can get lost.

  • It has fewer boundaries as it might take away the recharge time in exchange for a feeling of fulfillment. 

  • An employee might feel disoriented between work and life due to the added pressure of getting everything done simultaneously, which may result in dissatisfaction.

  • Whether your organization approves of it too matters. Working remotely, as a choice, or having flexible work hours that do not align with the organizational goals may lead to extra stress and dissonance.

  • While there are various tips for work-life integration success that one can follow, flexibility and acceptance are essential.

Despite the preferences, one needs to be accepting of this strategy. Dr. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of Business, says, "Flexible work is here to stay, but companies that resist it may not be."

Challenges of work-life integration for the remote workforce

Adopting work-life integration in a remote workforce/environment has its issues to tackle. It is not as relaxing as it may seem. An article published by The Wall Street Journal states that despite the increased productivity of the remote workforce, they are dealing with a more intense work pace and tremendous stress.

Time spent working can get extended as the boundaries blur between life and work. Employees working in different settings and time zones may find it more time-consuming to coordinate with each other's schedules. Company/Manager expectations to prioritize business calls at a specific time might make balancing work and personal priorities challenging. The teamwork spirit may be missed by many.

So which one is more beneficial?

Well, it is a gray area. work-life integration vs. work-life balance is best explained as your preference as an individual. It is subjective to you. The importance of work-life integration is that it allows you to choose clearly and appropriately for yourself. On the other hand, work-life balance tries to organize your time into two parts, so you focus on one thing and disconnect from the other. However, they are here to lower the stress levels and not add any.

"Work isn't just our livelihood. Our jobs should [not] dictate how we spend most of our waking hours," says Dr. Grant. "For several generations, we've organized our lives around our work. It might be time to start planning our work around our lives."

Indeed, it is time for a change to come! So, the work-life balance strategy could be your calling if you want to set boundaries. But, if you want the best of both worlds, work-life integration is the best way to achieve it. 

At Extentia, a Merkle company, we have always encouraged our teams to find the right balance and speak up if they need support. Our HR teams also ensure that they are taking initiatives to promote mental health and work-life integration. They strive hard to listen carefully whether any employee is on the verge of burnout or if they need any external help. The management is fully aware of employees' challenges in the flexible or remote working pattern, and they suggest innovative ways to ease the struggle. We hope to see smoother and more examples of work-life integration around us in the coming years.

If you'd like to explore career opportunities at Extentia, check out our careers page here and stay tuned for the next blog on the best ways to achieve work-life integration. 

Read other Extentia Blog posts here!

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