Better Than Balance: Integrating Work and Life in the Modern Workspace

The traditional ideal of “work-life balance” is now a thing of the past. With 24/7 digital connection and remote and flexible work environments, the clear separation between work and life is just no longer realistic. That’s why more and more experts are advocating for “work-life integration” instead.

Rather than compartmentalizing work and life into distinct spheres, work-life integration means blending different aspects of your life in a sustainable way. The integration approach recognizes that in the digital age, the lines between personal and professional are blurred. We need flexibility and permeability across domains, not an artificial split.

Trying to achieve a perfect equilibrium between work and life can leave you feeling stressed and dissatisfied. Balance requires a mastery of time management, but integration focuses more on boundary management that honors your needs and values. This focus can actually lead to greater productivity. Research has found that having some positive spillover between work and non-work (and vice versa) is linked to higher job satisfaction, engagement, and performance. Rigid separation often backfires, leading to preoccupation and burnout.

Integration also sets up leaders to be more authentic and connected. Trying to keep work and life fully apart can create a sense of insincerity. Leaders who embrace integration are better able to apply their full, integrated selves. This builds trust and community.

Practically speaking, what does work-life integration look like day to day? Here are some key principles:

  • Letting aspects of your personal life come through at work. For instance, pausing for a midday workout or stepping out to have lunch with a friend.
  • Setting clear boundaries and communicating availability expectations to protect space for personal renewal. Just because you can be always on doesn’t mean you should be.
  • Blending locations – working sometimes at a café, from home, or even while traveling. Confinement inside your office walls 40+ hours a week is a thing of the past. 
  • Taking advantage of technology to integrate seamlessly. Video calls make it easier to connect face-to-face even when remote. You can even try remote office apps that allow your teams to express themselves and be together in a virtual space from anywhere.
  • Viewing interruptions (like a childcare crisis or inspiration for a passion project) as part of the natural flow of life, rather than crises to be compartmentalized away.

The digital world offers unprecedented flexibility to craft your own personalized version of work-life integration. This integrative boundary management allows you to achieve greater harmony and success across the full scope of your life. In turn, leading with this integrated approach allows you to create more humane, connected, and inspired leadership.

To learn more about work-life integration and boundary management, check out our event, Finding the Balance That Works For You: Leadership & Work-life Balance.”