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Work-life balance or work-life integration?

Lars-Thorsten Sudmann
Mar 20, 2020 4:00:00 PM

Work-life balance or work-life integration?

For generations, a healthy work-life balance has been the optimal and ultimate solution. That means, being able to build a well-balanced relationship between work and private life, whereby those different areas should be treated and considered separately. Since work and private life are nowadays increasingly merging, a new method is needed: the so-called work-life integration.

  • In contrast to a work-life balance, work-life integration creates a symbiosis between areas of life – work and private lives.
  • The objectives are clearly defined: work-life integration should, amongst other topics, provide efficient working, a reduced stress level and a high degree of dedication and willingness to contribute.
  • There are different methods enabling a work-life integration, i.e. home office, telework and job sharing.

In contrast to a work-life balance, the work-life integration focusses on the combination of both private and work life. It is no longer a matter of maintaining two coexisting areas but about creating an integrative connection. This trend owes a lot to the increasing digitization: smartphones, cloud systems and e-mails allow flexible working hours and an almost unlimited reachability as well as working out of normal office hours.

Goals of the work-life integration

The work-life integration does not only seek to continue working at home after regular working times, it creates the possibility to deal with private matters during office times. The aim is to use the day in the most efficient way possible. That means: If no unforeseen additional tasks arise, one can go home early. In return, it is necessary to develop a willingness to sacrifice some free time for work matters.

Lots of people fear a negative trend – more and more work is shifting into the private sector. However, work-life integration is not about sacrificing one’s personal life to work, but rather about lowering one’s stress level while also using time as efficient as possible. Therefore, the objectives are clearly defined: less stress, a healthier life, more pleasure in working, long-term motivation and a high degree of dedication and willingness to contribute.

Work-life integration in practice

For a work-life integration to function, both employees and employers need to take several measures. A first prudential criterion must be the willingness to consider unconventional possibilities. There are different methods enabling a work-life integration, i.e. flexible working hours, home office, telework, retreats within the company, health options, childcare and job sharing. Afore-mentioned offers do not only promote a company’s efficiency, but simultaneously offer incentives for potential employees. Nowadays, it is no longer only about gaining money, but much more about incentives being required that are beneficial and useful for a work-life integration and a stable connection between both areas of life. Thus, neither the private life nor the career will have to queue behind.

Both work-life balance and work-life integration pursue the same objective: a happy life in which neither work nor private life miss out. However, the work-life integration established a new and significant focus: integration instead of delimitation, flowing together instead of balancing.

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