Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Integration
Most entrepreneurs and founders know – and strive – for work-life balance; that middle ground between keeping productivity up at the office and maintaining a healthy environment at home. But this idea implies that work is separate from life, and that a unique portion of time is devoted to each.
But what if you could integrate life into work, and vice versa? This trend of work-life integration, instead of work-life balance, is becoming more idealistic as entrepreneurs and founders are becoming not only more of the norm, but starting to face the realities of growing companies – and growing families.
The New York Times recently published an article explaining this new trend of work-life integration, especially as Silicon Valley businesses begin to offer perks that extend beyond the workplace and into the homes of the employees. Perks given by companies like Evernote, Facebook, and the Stanford School of Medicine aimed to reduce employees’ overall stress at both work and home, so that employees can worry less about the little things and enjoy both work and life more, without necessarily thinking abou them as separate entities. Evernote, for example, offers free housecleaning – which we all know can be quite a chore – twice per month.
The idea of work-life integration also addresses some of the problems with work-life balance, such as the very notion it prescribes – that work and life are separate and must be balanced. In an article on Forbes Lisa Quast described a conversation between herself and a group of MBA student mentees about the concept of achieving a work-life balance. She asked the group what work-life balance looked like, and where the idea came about that it’s so vital. She wrote, “The answers surprised the women because, unanimously, they each believed they needed better work-life balance because someone else had told them they needed it.”
For many people, including Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer, the idea that someone could achieve a healthy work-life balance when having a baby seemed too hard to believe. How could someone run a major corporation when they’re dealing with a newborn at home? One of the worst-kept secrets among executives is that the line between work and home is often blurred thanks to a significant amount of help, which gives them the ability to schedule around these two components in a way that allows them to maintain control and make the most of their time.
As a full-time consultant, part-time writer, and full-time daughter, sister, aunt, and friend to many other like-minded entrepreneurial-minded types, work is life is work. There is no beginning or end to “what I do”, but also no beginning or end to time with friends or family. Ideas ebb and flow, creativity sometimes kicks in over morning coffee or evening cocktails. Consulting sessions happen between a morning run and lunch with a colleague I haven’t seen in a year. Or sometimes that lunch is with a friend in the industry and we end up discussing fall fashion trends, inspiring one of us to make the next move on a side-project.
At the end of the day, I have surrounded myself with both work and people that I not only love, but inspire me. This idea of work-life integration may not make sense to those who find themselves running for the door at 5pm. But to many other entrepreneurs, founders, and those working with them – this may just make more sense, too.
What do you think – do you strive for work-life balance, or work-life integration? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!