According to a recent study conducted by Ernst & Young, nearly one-third of millennials say managing their work, family, and personal responsibilities has become more difficult in the last five years. Work-life balance is hard to define. To some, work is life and others feel the term means making time for your love ones or having a social life.
Work-life integration, on the other hand, suggests that we incorporate our work and life into one fulfilling purpose. We talked to a few busy entrepreneurs/executives to know what are their personal opinions on work-life balance and integration.
Does Work-life Balance Exist?
The term work-life balance implies that one dedicates an equal portion of time to work and life. The question is, can people actually segment their life into 50:50, separating life and work? Unless you have a cookie-cutter life, where your routine is the same everyday – then it’s almost impossible.
Bowie Saw, Co-founder of Biztory felt the same way too: “I never contend to separate work and life, as I believe that work is part of my life and vice versa. It supports each other.”
Meanwhile, Deputy CEO of Tookar, Tan Ming Kim personally thinks that to really understand work-life balance, you must first have the passion to take ownership and treat the company as your own rather than an just an employee. With that in mind, work-life balance means having time for your non-work activities, whilst balancing the responsibilities tied together by being accountable for your work.
Teresa Truda, Co-founder of chozun, finds it hard to balance both. She said that she had to learn it the hard way. “Having a startup that’s your baby means this can be challenging. You never actually switch off. And I find that you might do something in your ‘life’, but it’s still all connected to work somehow. The best way I have dealt with this so far, is by forcing myself to take at least one hour a day – to wind down, to ‘switch off’. Sometimes I have to make myself do ‘life’ things and purposely leave my phone behind so I can get some sort of work-life balance.”
In today’s digital and fast-paced lifestyle, we are constantly chased by deadlines and many other urgent matters. There will be days that you need to work a little longer and harder. Things will change and you need to adjust your plans accordingly. So, it’s very hard to keep that equal balance.
Work-life Balance VS Work-life Integration
Thanks to smart phones and remote work, moving work around in your own time and space is not only possible, but it has become an epidemic. The notion of balance is slowly disappearing as professionals are comfortable with blurring the line between work and life.
Agreeing to this idea, Truda says: “I am living work-life integration and I feel okay about that. Like I mentioned previously, there is always some kind of work that creeps into my life. As long as you’re conscious and aware of it, then that’s okay. It’s when you’re not necessarily in tune with yourself and that integration, that it can be unhealthy.”
Work-life integration is emerging due to globalisation and technology’s impact on the work environment. People are now finding a way to mix their work and personal matters. Like answering emails when you’re off work or for working parents – attending to their child(ren) during working hours.
Tan shares that he prefers work-life integration rather than balancing both. “I believe work-life integration provides fulfilment to people as we would have a clear purpose and keeps us looking forward. With that, each activity we do or plan to do derives from an underlying goal we wish to achieve in the future.”
How To Achieve Successful Work-life Integration
#1 Find The Time That Lets You Work Best
It’s all about finding what works best for you. Some people prefer to have breaks in between their working hours. They find it much more effective and productive. Meanwhile, others allocate some time on a Sunday night to prep for their work. It doesn’t matter what you do. As long as you it makes you feel productive and energetic, just go ahead and do it.
“By prioritising, providing flexibility in timing and concentrate on the bigger picture (getting things done), you can create a manageable balance between the integration of work and life,” Tan suggests.
#2 Take Control Of Your Schedule
We actually have more control over our daily schedules than we like to believe. If you give yourself permission to be better, you can take power over your schedule and achieve a higher state of integration. By doing so, you avoid yourself from getting burnt out.
Truda shares: “I try to do this by forcing myself, to take even a small amount of time for myself. Whether that be watching some trashy TV for an hour before bed, reading a graphic novel, taking myself for a coffee on the weekends or hanging out with friends. It takes a lot of mental effort and force to do those things to ensure I maintain some kind of balance.”
As for Saw, she says: “I always spare some time for myself to watch a movie, listen to some music, cook, make nice coffee for family and myself, play board games – whatever I think is not disrupting my work. Sometimes, conversations with others do inspire me with new ideas for some of the things that I had trouble with at work.”
#3 Work At Your Natural Pace
Some people have shorter attention spans and some don’t. Some people are morning people, while others aren’t. Stop spending your energy trying to operate in a way that’s against your natural pace.
Don’t try to partake in the ‘trend’ of work/life balance if it doesn’t work for you. This will only disrupt your positive chakra and decrease your productivity level. Focus on what you can control.
#4 Talk To Your Superior About It
If you need to start a bit late in the morning, so you can hit that yoga class – try speaking to your supervisor about a schedule that works for you. More and more businesses understand the importance of integration by allowing employees to work from home, access emails via a laptop, take a fitness class in the morning, and encourage healthy eating.
For instance, Virgin has even established unlimited leave for their employees to boosts their morale, creativity and productivity.
We hope that with this, you can learn to manage your work/life better. Do take note that work-life strategy is not a one-size-fits-all approach as it can differ depending on the industries you are in, with groups from various age groups and cultural backgrounds, at different life stages and with diverse needs. Once again, do things that work best for you.