The shift toward remote work over the last year changed the way many individuals thought about their jobs juxtaposed with their personal lives. It uncovered the need for a conversation that was long overdue: how to create a better work-life integration.
Since more offices have moved into individuals’ homes, it has become increasingly difficult for some to maintain a separation between work and rest. These blurred lines leave them feeling burned out and stressed, which may perpetuate as they transition back into an office setting.
In this article, let’s open a conversation about the importance of finding a balance (whatever that might mean for you). I’ll also give advice for taking steps toward work-life integration, wherever you may be in your work situation.
What is Work-Life Integration?
Work-life integration means finding an equilibrium between both career and personal obligations in a way that is beneficial for the individual, while maintaining a healthy degree of separation between work and life.
It might not be an even split between the two, as long as it allows the individual to feel both fulfilled in the professional life with time to recharge and pursue outside interests during off-time. When working virtually, this becomes more challenging as physical lines blur between being on and being off work.
Achieving better work-life integration might include making family time a priority by being present for dinner, rather than working late every night of the week. It could also look like taking unused vacation time, when appropriate, to rest and come back feeling refreshed.
The Importance of Finding a Balance
Taking time away from work is important for employees’ own personal development, as well as their mental and physical well-being.
Additionally, taking time away can help refocus priorities. If you’re someone who regularly works long hours and never takes days off, you may come to realize that you’ve been prioritizing work over important relationships. It could become the catalyst for deciding what you truly want in life.
If nothing else, finding a way to take breaks will help you do your job better. If you take the time you need to recharge, you may find it easier to focus while you’re at work and be more productive in the long run.
Taking Steps Toward Work-Life Integration
Whatever the case may be, if you feel as though you’d like to seek a better balance, here are a few steps to get you started.
1. Evaluate Your Current Situation
How do you feel about your life now? Do you feel fulfilled in your job, but need to spend some time away to recharge? Are there certain areas of your life that are being overshadowed by your work? Are you exhausted and feel like work and life are just moving too fast?
Take some time to assess how you’re feeling. You may consider journaling your thoughts as a form of documentation or providing clarity to the many emotions you might be experiencing.
2. Consider Long- and Short-Term Goals
Take your thoughts from the last step and apply them to the future. What are you hoping to achieve? Are you taking steps toward your goals by what you’re currently doing? How could you make a change to put yourself on the right path?
When we get caught up in the frantic nature of some of our jobs, it’s easy to lose sight of what we want moving forward. However, taking the time to pause and reassess may help as you decide whether your current lack of balance is because you’re working toward a higher goal or is serving as a distraction.
3. Create a Schedule
Humans tend to be creatures of habit. We enjoy having schedules, and they can be markedly beneficial as you try to make a change in your work habits.
Start by scheduling out the things you’d like to get done while at work. Then, find ways to prioritize what absolutely cannot wait until tomorrow. You may find that you are able to wrap up at an earlier time or that you’re more willing to be disciplined about set work hours.
Creating a schedule is also important for being more intentional about your time away from work. What do you want to do in your free time? Even just creating a space to exercise or to rest may help you feel more balanced.
4. Take Time Away
There are many reasons why individuals don’t take time off from work. Maybe you feel like your co-workers won’t be able to cover your position while you’re gone. You might be worried about being perceived as disengaged if you take time away.
However, it’s necessary to take time to completely unplug from work every now and again. It will help you take a step back from your work responsibilities to truly think about why you’ve been unable to maintain a balance. It can offer undistracted time to reflect and make room for your creative self.
Moreover, it can stave off burnout and stress, which can contribute to depression and anxiety. So, consider adding time for yourself to your schedule.
5. Accept That There’s No Perfect Answer
When it comes to work-life integration, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It may take time to know what works best for you, your career, your mental health, and several other factors.
Be patient with yourself as you navigate this area, and feel free to go back to steps one and two to reevaluate your current situation and future trajectory.
You may find it helpful to talk to a professional, like a coach or a colleague, to discuss your goals and how you’d like to improve.
What strategies have you used to maintain work-life integration, and in what ways would you like to improve? The discussion surrounding this topic has been growing over the past year in particular, but how could you turn that discussion into an action?
Let me know, what has been working for you?
If you or your colleagues are struggling to strike a balance, we should have a conversation. I encourage you to set up a meeting to discuss your current situation and how to create a healthier workplace environment.