The Shift from Work/Life Balance to Integration
As more and more young professionals continue to enter the workforce, a change in how we approach work-life balance is underway. More seasoned professionals may remember the days when work was work and home life was home life. Yet as technology advances, we've seen a paradigm shift from this classic way of thinking.
Cell phones, apps, websites and cloud-based platforms allow individuals to be plugged into work at any time of day. And platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook allow people to be constantly connected on a personal level as well.
Work/life balance is the ability to divide your energy so that you are fully capable of managing not only your professional responsibilities, but your responsibilities outside of the office as well. Most people think of work/life balance as getting work done in the working hours and shutting work off when you get home. Yet here at Boomer, we've noticed something a little bit different about the desire to attain a healthy work/life balance in 2018. It isn't just about a healthy divide of energy (personal and professional). It has become more critical to integrate work and life so that people, across all levels of an organization, have an overall well-rounded connection to both their work and their home life at all times.
Work/life integration, born from the principles of a healthy work/life balance, takes this idea to the next level by encouraging organizations to trust that their employees will get the work done regardless of where they're doing it, how long it takes or what is happening around them.
Some people may think that work/life integration is all about working wherever you want, whenever you want but this isn't necessarily accurate. The overall principle of work-life integration is trust. You must trust that your employees will complete the work assigned to them, in a reasonable timeframe, while also providing them the tools needed to do their jobs. While some organizations encourage working from anywhere, most organizations may not have the ability to allow that type of flexibility. But what can easily be done to support healthy work/life integration is to understand that life happens at the same time work is happening.
For example, a teacher might text a picture of your kid in the classroom doing something they're proud of. As a parent, you take a few seconds (maybe show off that picture to your co-workers) and send a note back to the teacher. This takes some time away from work, but not more than a minute or two. This minute or two might make up for that email you sent from your kitchen on Saturday morning while you were making coffee and checking your phone. We as a workforce must remember that in 2018, life and work happen at the same time. Work/life integration is about blending the two, trusting that the work will get done, and supporting your employees both personally and professionally.
So now the question has shifted from being 'how do we create a healthy work/life balance' to 'how do we create healthy work/life integration?'
The best way to adapt to a more social way of working is to support employees by offering a healthier office culture. Young professionals feel the need to be deeply connected with the work that they do. This connection creates a sense of purpose and pride and in turn brings more dedication, hard work and sustainability. Employees who are not connected to their work, who feel that they aren't valued in the workplace and don't feel trusted will not be as dedicated to producing high-quality work.
So what are the best ways to promote healthy work/life integration?
For work/life integration to really impact a team, the change has to come from the top. Leaders who trust their employees, trust their fellow leadership teams and lead by example are necessary for implementing change in an organization. For some seasoned leaders, the idea of work/life integration might be a hard pill to swallow at first. But just remember that the culture around the workplace has shifted. If you can keep your eye on the prize (a successful team with happy clients) then integrating this new mindset will be easier and more welcomed along the way.
Encourage time off
Everyone in your team needs to take time away from work. Especially if you're in a demanding industry or go through very busy periods. When team members are overworked with little time to rest, burnout and animosity can build. An easy way to avoid this downfall is to encourage your team to take time away from work and unplug while out of the office.
Create opportunities for teams to be socially involved
In a day and age where over one billion people are active on Facebook, providing ways for your team to be socially involved in an online way creates solidarity within your organization. Take advantage of websites and apps that allow team members to connect on their own time, yet in a personal way. (Here at Boomer, we like Facebook's Workplace!)
Create processes and leverage technology
Technology is evolving quicker than most people can keep up and there are thousands of apps and websites to help in any aspect of your life. So take advantage of the resources available and find software, programs and products that will work for your team. In companies that have lots of remote workers, sites like Sococo are useful for connecting in a one-on-one way. Websites like Asana and Trello easily allow for project management and organization. Creating structure with the use of technology will allow organizations to spend less time on the basics and more time on the details.
Trust and respect your people
Trust is the biggest part of work-life integration, and respect goes hand-in-hand with trust. When you respect that your team members are individuals with lives outside of the workplace, you provide them with a sense of security that they're not alone in this world. That other people understand that life-events that happen. Whether that be a triumph or a tragedy, life will at some point get in the way of work. So if you create a trusting and respectful environment, employees will be energized and passionately connected to your organization and the work that they're doing. And if life has to take them away from work, they'll be even more ready and willing to come back and even work harder to make up for the time away.
Work-life integration isn't something that can happen overnight, and it takes thoughtful leadership to implement. But time and energy spent creating a platform of trust and understanding can make a lasting impression not only on your organization as a whole but with each team member as well.
As a Project Manager for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Mandi Jean brings with her a creative background and passion for process and organization. Her primary focus is on training engagements, including the P3 Leadership Academy, and overseeing events at the Accounting Innovation Center.