For years I have pushed the idea of work-life integration. It only took a pandemic for the rest of the world to catch on. However, there is still a large obstacle in allowing for actual, healthy work-life integration: the perspective that “it’s okay.” It’s okay to have this integration. Both the company and the employee need to understand and accept this. Work-life integration is NOT a way to just work more. Right now, you’re probably wondering, what is Jeffrey talking about?
Work/life balance is very difficult for most of us to pull off. If you take your typical 24-hour day, you have 8 hours of work balanced with 8 hours at home and the 8 hours of sleep (that none of us get). As soon as you go over your 8 hours of work the balance is gone. For most of us its heavily weighted with work. Days are not 8 hours, they are 9 or 10. If there is a commute, that’s more time that isn’t “home.” The “balance” became just making sure you fit in little Lisa’s game or Timmy’s play and trying to get one date night a month with your significant other, which is no balance at all.
In order to integrate these two areas, we have to be able to do work at home AND home at work. Again, what’s he talking about??? It’s common place for people to work at home. A long day in the office and trying to “catch up” in the evening on emails, projects, and other requests because the day was filled with meetings and putting out fires. But most people don’t try to have home at work.
Here’s an example of how we can and the “it’s okay” perspective, which is necessary. Your child has a school event or your dog/cat/guinea pig has a vet appointment. Leave work during work hours and go to this important piece of your life. Integrate that piece of home into your workday. While you are at the school or vet KNOW its okay for you to be there and you aren’t doing anything wrong leaving work for a while. You don’t have to feel that nervous need to “get back to the office.” Enjoy the play, ask the doctor questions, take your time to be present and involved. Then go back to work and do your best. You know you’ll make those hours up before Friday at 5 pm.
This is only possible at a company that supports this work-life integration. Employees must know and feel it’s okay for them to be away. The company must promote and support this idea. While at work, the employee should be taking care of their responsibilities and communicating what’s going on. The company and/or manager must ensure the employees know it’s okay for them to be away, the work will be there when they get back. Or maybe someone covers for them which will be repaid in kind. Then they can be present for their son/daughter/spouse/pet/personal time. It’s okay to do that.
Run out and grab some bread when you think about it at work, so you don’t forget on the way home. Go out and buy your significant other flowers or a craft beer. Go to those life appointments and integrate your home at work. You can do it, it’s okay!