Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Integration

What’s the Difference?

How much of our day do we devote to work? Are we completely unavailable once we leave the office?

While the office is the place where we are most focused on our work, this does not necessarily mean the modern, mobile and virtual office worker is unable to contribute otherwise. Whereas in the past, once out of the office, most employees were difficult to reach — thus leading to a separation between professional and personal life, the lines are becoming more and more blurred nowadays.

Being at work

Today, technology allows people to communicate seamlessly from anywhere, anytime, giving rise to the term “work-life integration”. This has essentially replaced and become interchangeable with the concept of “work-life balance”. The idea of one’s professional and personal life being in sync, however, is not as simple as saying, “my job requires 8 hours a day, and the rest of my time is spent not working”. This implies that, so long as we contribute our due time to our organization, we can start work late, have a long lunch break, or even work in the evening — we do not need to physically be in the office. This, of course, excludes jobs that require manual labor in the work place or direct supervision.

My work is my friend

However, there is another distinction between work and personal life that needs to be addressed. Specifically, it is how much we allow our job to affect our personal life. Sure, we can take a client call while on vacation (provided internet or network coverage is stable enough), but are we willing to share our various social media profiles with clients? Do we want colleagues to see how we spend our personal time? Should we use our personal phones for business? The answers to these vary from person to person depending on age, occupation, civil status, etc., but all these essentially lead us to question how much business creeps into our personal routine, and to what extent does it affect our relationship with non-co-workers.

Work-life or life-work?

Finally, apart from physically and socially devoting ourselves to work, we can also think in terms of psychological separation between work and free time. That is, how much do we value our job compared to the rest of our daily routine? Is career the most important thing, or do we simply see it as a means to be financially well-off?

Although this is more of a cultural topic that is relatively understood, depending on location, it is still quite relevant in terms of the way we look at professional development. For some, the latter is directly tied to personal development, whereas for others, it is what we do outside of the office that contributes the most to becoming better.

The truth is, no matter how much time we put into it, work will never be done — there will always be another deal to close, another solution to apply, and another investment opportunity to evaluate. It is also true, though, that we rise and grow through solving problems and facing challenges, and work presents the perfect chance to experience both.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

In conclusion, I’d like to share a short experience I had a few months back. Last November, I went to a networking event and met someone — a video blogger that quit his well-paid, secure, corporate job in New York City to travel the world, explore cultures and meet people. Something that he said really resonated with me and made me think: “What would make me share a percentage of my life working for your company?”

Let’s face it: we have a limited time on Earth and spending it working just for the sake of being able to afford the next material possession is, quite simply, meaningless in the grand scheme of things. I strongly support the idea that if you find the proper calling in life, regardless of how much time you spend on it, you will always feel good about it and not worry about how much you devote your efforts. Then you will have focus, and with focus, comes balance that allows us to integrate our work into our daily lives.

It is simply a matter of finding our passion and following it.

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About the author:

Anton Bonev — a Bulgarian expatriate — is a marketing professional with a Master’s degree in Marketing Management from one of the top research universities in the Netherlands. Currently working as a Digital Marketing Consultant at John Clements Consultants, he is assisting the company in becoming the leading digital recruitment solutions provider in the Philippines.