An alternative for work-life balance and work-life integration?
‘Work-life balance’ came into use in the 1970s and 80s, as stressed baby boomers strived to achieve a balance between career, family and other areas of their lives. Behind the idea of work-life balance, is the assumption that “work” competes with “life”. Many individuals believe, to achieve substantial impact in their career progression, they need to make major sacrifices in their personal life. There are multiple routes to success, without trying to pursue work-life balance, which is an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth.
So, instead of separating the two completely, work-life integration aims to unify your personal and work life in a way that complements both areas, as opposed to them competing with one other. The aim is to create more synergies between work life and personal life.
The development of technology and our growing reliance on our devices, makes it increasingly difficult to create a strict division between your home and work life. Few completely unplug when they go home or on holiday, resulting in work related duties regularly spilling over into our personal lives. This makes work-life balance an impossible task.
‘Work-life integration’ is typically programs developed by corporations. Just like health insurance benefits, the Corporation provides multiple options and selections for their employees with the aim of increasing both productivity and employee engagement. Yet, when you evaluate these programs critically, it appears event driven, for example bring your child to work on a dedicated day. Having a company driven benefit, like virtual office and/or flexible working hours are indeed helpful for work-life integration, but it is an initiation of the corporation.
A third concept of ‘work-life harmony’ has also been proposed, which is about arranging your life so that the different parts are in harmony. The key difference is that achieving harmony means you can focus more on work sometimes and more on your personal life other times.
I want to advocate for a new approach to the three above: ‘life & career wellness’.
Firstly, change the order and position life at the forefront. Life includes our capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death. Without life, there is no work to be done.
In addition to that, eliminate the term work, and replace it with career. Work is a task or tasks to be undertaken, something a person must do to achieve a purpose or result. Career on the other hand is undertaking an occupation or profession for a significant period of your life and with opportunities for progress.
Scientific and technological innovation resulted in the possibility of life close to or beyond 100 years, making wellness important. Wellness is a conscious, self-directed and evolving process, encompassing lifestyle, mental and spiritual well-being, and the environment, through which you become aware of, and make choices towards achieving your full potential and a more successful way of life. Mindfully focusing on wellness in our lives builds resilience and enables us to thrive amidst life’s challenges.
Wellness is multidimensional and holistic and explains:
- How a person contributes to their environment and community, and how to build better living spaces and social networks
- The enrichment of life through work, and its interconnectedness to living and playing
- The development of belief systems, values, and creating a world-view
- The benefits of regular physical activity, healthy eating habits, strength and vitality as well as personal responsibility, self-care and when to seek medical attention
- Self-esteem, self-control, and determination as a sense of direction
- Creative and stimulating mental activities, and sharing your gifts with others
Lastly, build your ‘life & career wellness’ on your personal values.
Values are deeply rooted motivations that guide, justify, and explain your attitude, norms, opinions, and actions. Every individual has their own unique value system or hierarchy. Each organization has their own unique values – and individual and organization values – are different. Values are expressed in hierarchy and the basis of the hierarchy is their importance for their owners – a higher level value will be more influential in determining behavior.
Evaluate your personal value system and hierarchy critically first, and then experiment with living your life & career in wellness. Most people that successfully live a meaningful and fulfilled life, are those living their values on their ‘life &career’ journey.