Integrating work and life might make a lot more sense to freelancers than trying to balance work and life. In a recent article entitled, Want a Competitive Advantage? Focus on Work-Life Integration, Jacob Morgan suggests that rather than battling work and life to create a balance, we should be integrating them so they work together.
He defines the difference between work-life balance and integration in the following way:
“What’s the difference between work-life balance and work-life integration? Balance is the old way of thinking–creating barriers between work and home so they didn’t spill over into each other. The idea was that employees would be distracted with home things at work and that work things at home would lead to unhappy and unhealthy workers. However, a changing world with 24/7 technology, globalization, and a strong freelancer economy has created a need for service at all hours of the day and given us the tools to work whenever and wherever we please. Just like work demands around the world now pop up at all hours of the day and night, so too do home responsibilities. Instead of fighting the overlapping demands of work and life and having employees be constantly pulled between wanting to have a good career and a strong home life, work-life integration allows the two areas to work together to create a cohesive approach to an employee’s personal and professional lives.”
This approach makes a lot of sense for all workers and especially freelancers. Take our very own operations manager Michelle as an example. With a young family and partner who works full time, life has to be made up of well planned routines.
However, the minute something unexpected happens – an illness or emergency, for example – and all the routines are thrown into disarray. A stressful situation becomes more stressful if, at that moment, you are trying to balance work and life.
That’s not Michelle’s approach, however. Due to technology and the type of work she does at Jam Pan, Michelle has a little more flexibility. That means emergencies receive the time and attention they need and then work is picked up later.
Work-life flexibility means that Michelle’s routines are more flexible. She can take a few hours out of the day to collect the children from nursery, feed and play with them and put them to bed and then work in the evening. This suits her and her family.
This also works for Jam Pan as it is a results-focused business. That means the focus is on what needs to be delivered. Due to the nature of the work, how it is delivered is up to Michelle and how she wants to work.
This approach cannot work for all organisations but it can and does for many. It is a particularly useful approach for freelance workers.
That said, having flexibility to work how you want to work is great. But, warns Michelle, you need to be brutal about what tasks need to be done when. When you receive work updates on your day off make sure you only act on the ones that cannot wait.
These decisions are a lot easier to make if you are integrating work and life rather than battling to keep them apart.
As Morgan says,
“Just like work demands around the world now pop up at all hours of the day and night, so too do home responsibilities. Instead of fighting the overlapping demands of work and life and having employees be constantly pulled between wanting to have a good career and a strong home life, work-life integration allows the two areas to work together to create a cohesive approach to an employee’s personal and professional lives.”
Tips on integrating work and life
- Be clear on the type of work and tasks that suit this approach to work
- Focus on results, not attendance
- Trust colleagues to design their working day to get the results and suit how they want to work
- As a freelancer/worker, prioritise tasks so that work does not take over your entire life
- Technology is your friend – choose tools that help you integrate work and life more easily
Written by Martin Couzins