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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!


  • csdivakar

    March 23, 2013

    Thanks Kelly Clay. this article is brilliant and learnt a lot . I started applying work-life integration and squeezing my work and life whereever possible and it changed my whole life stupendously.

  • Carin Beumer

    May 1, 2013

    “Integration” is better than “balance”. However, the term “work- life” implies opposites and mutually exclusive areas. It also implies that work is not life. For me, as entrpreneur and founder of a specialty pharmaceutical company and mother of 2 boys (14yrs and 12 yrs) it is about the integration of work, family and personal time. All of which are critical and key to life, albeit that most of the past 15 years have been spent on “work” at the expense of “family” and “personal time”. With both my boys at boarding school as of September 2013, I hope to continue to work, have quality time with my family (mostly at term breaks and school holidays), while having more time for friends and social life – than was possible in the past 15 years.

  • Javier

    January 28, 2015

    That’s about right
    It’s a really enlightening article, I totally agree that you can’t separate life and work, you’ll end up thinking about a work’s problem while you’re doing personal stuff after work, the same that you may need to call someone or file something personal within your working hours, and companies that give you the liberty to do your diligences within your working hours will get more benefits of their employees as they will feel free, they will be complete…

  • Deanna Miller

    February 11, 2018

    Millennials are really driving this mind shift (https://www.greetly.com/blog/work-life-integration). In a perfect world, I think balance and a separation is better. However it didn’t work so perhaps integration will ultimately provide a better life for the next generation of employees.

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