As the Covid-19 pandemic continuously blurs the line between work and personal life, the onset of remote-working arrangements has increasingly created a shift from what was commonly known as work-life balance, to work-life integration.
The difference between the two terms are as such: “work-life balance” connotes a distinct boundary between work and one’s interior life, while “work-life integration” refers to the symbiosis of both worlds.
There are numerous online resources that spurs people into following “one or the other” — to pursue either “balance” or “integration”, but here at Solve n+1, we believe that the decision is never as simple as choosing “this/that”. Instead, if our lives are made up of varying priorities, then we are constantly making decisions to juggle them according to timeliness and importance. They are neither fixed nor competing against each other.
As working adults, we spend approximately one third of our lives at work. If work and life have been seen as dichotomous, how much time at work, can we safely say that we are living? Many have the mindset of slogging at work on the weekdays for the purpose of enjoyment on the weekends. While that sentiment is valid, is it really sustainable?
There is no right or wrong way to work and live harmoniously, and life is not always about finding the right balance. We believe that living a good life is about pursuing healthy relationships with the people around you and the work/activities you do.
The following 3 questions are for you to ponder and think about how you can cultivate your work and life simultaneously:
1. What do you value in life and how does your work contribute to that?
Work should give you an added sense of purpose, but it should not consume your entire life. Your work responsibilities, although important, should not override your everyday needs and life’s purpose, both of which make you human and not a robot.
Think about what inspires you and what the purpose of work for you is. Take time to find alignment between your life’s purpose and work. Having a mindset like this, would give you security in making tough decisions that require you to juggle the numerous roles you play at work, at home, and everywhere else.
2. How is your relationship with your work?
Like a relationship with a friend or a loved one, think about what your relationship with your work is like. Is it toxic, anxiety-inducing, do you sometimes drag your feet? Or is it life-giving, purposeful and inspiring? Or could it be both? If so, dive deep into those emotions and talk about it to a co-worker or a friend. It is better to face it than to be constantly triggered by it when it is swept beneath the rug.
Imagine your work as a person instead of a to-do list. Think about how you can communicate and partner with your work to help you achieve that sense of fulfilment for your life’s purpose. Write about the disappointments you have experienced with your work, and also how you hope to see it through new beginnings. Like managing expectations in a friendship/relationship, do the same with your work to develop a healthy relationship with it.
3. What is the purpose of work-life boundaries?
The beauty of integrating work into your life and letting people into your work, is the freedom to process your thoughts and ideas about work whenever and with whomever you trust. However, without the distinct lines that segregate your work and life, it is easier for you to experience burnout. There are many who enjoy their work and are constantly consumed by it, until they run out of fuel. There are many methods to help you pace your work, even if you feel energised by it, because too much of a good thing may not always be good.
Boundaries are often established not solely to protect you, but also to guard the space for the people around you. In life, navigating relationships — personal or work-related, is mostly about being self-aware and sensitive to the needs of things and the people around you. Take time to explore other things, learn, have fun activities and grow in other areas besides work, and be intentional about sharing other non-work related things as well. Work can be life, but life is also more than work.