Why Work-Life Integration Trumps Work-Life Balance

One CEO makes the case for why integrating work into your life--and vice versa--is the future of the working world.

The most productive leaders in business aren’t gunning for a work-life balance--that was the myth touted years ago that caused professionals to overbook their calendars and make efforts “to have it all.”

In a recent New Yorker article, David Solomon, the global co-head of investment banking at Goldman Sachs said, “Technology means that we’re all available 24/7. And, because everyone demands instant gratification and instant connectivity, there are no boundaries, no breaks.”

But there’s an alternative to the nonstop work cycle and rebuking a work-life balance entirely, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be stretched thin or never see your family.

In today’s ever-updating, ever-mobile workforces, a professional’s time is precious, and he or she wants to optimize it as effectively as possible. Professionals in all industries are casting out the notions of work-life balance in order to build better work-life integration practices--where work and life are intertwined--by leveraging technology to make it happen.

Today’s enterprises need to support the ability to work where, when, and how their employees want, yielding higher productivity and greater personal satisfaction.

Cases for using technology to your advantage

In a recent interview with the New Yorker, CEO Reed Hastings of Netflix said, “I don’t sail. I don’t fish. I’m a pitiful failure as a Renaissance man,” admitting that he didn’t have many hobbies aside from spending time with his family.

In 2007, Hastings lived in Italy with his family while Netflix, based in Los Gatos, California, continued to soar. He melded his business’ acceleration with living and working remotely in Europe.

We can attribute the success of these leaders to their ability to integrate and optimize their talents, time, and their abilities to leverage technology to yield their best productivity. These aren’t necessarily balanced situations, but when did balance ever become the ideal work structure?

The “anywhere worker” of today would say work-life balance is out the window, and work-life integration is the future.

Where are you most productive?

In a Unify-led survey that captured data from the U.S., U.K., and Germany, we found that 68% of people who described their teams as “very successful” have more than half of their team members in different locations. Being chained to an office desk does not indicate productivity.

The “anywhere worker” may be his or her most productive while working in a café or brainstorming through a conference call on their mobile device anywhere in the world.

We also found in our survey that these successful teams collaborate freely regardless of their location--79% of these successful teams say they are more likely to share a spontaneous idea on a virtual call than during an in-person meeting.

Productivity isn’t about the setting; it’s about the mind-set. Work-life integration starts with analyzing how you work the best. Take self-inventory on your work style. Ask yourself where, when, and how--via email, in-person, or video conferencing, for example--you perform to your highest caliber. The “anywhere worker” weaves these considerations with professional priorities and lifestyle choices.

The Integrated Work Ethic

Ben Franklin encouraged people to burn the midnight oil because it demonstrated a person’s persistence and character, and in turn, a person’s value. Yet, funnily enough, Franklin later admitted in his autobiography that burning the midnight oil was all for appearances because it gave a certain impression of a good work ethic.

A 2008 Harvard Business School survey from 1,000 professionals found 94% of people worked 50 hours or more a week, and almost half worked in excess of 65 hours a week.

What’s often considered to be a “strong work ethic” is determined by people putting in the time, withstanding tough situations, sacrificing, and slaving away. There’s honor in surviving arduous circumstances, but that’s unnecessary in the corporate setting because these days we have alternative ways to yield results and instill confidence in our customers and partners.

Being overworked is a global pastime that works against our success. Work fatigue always leads to being less effective and efficient. Over the years, we’ve identified the value of working smarter rather than working harder. Have we ever considered the third option, which is to work in a more integrated way?

Much like a conversation, company culture begins between two people. Don’t build your own personal mousetrap by hoisting an inflexible infrastructure to your company’s communication channels. Technology is here to disrupt former modes of “doing” and revitalize the fractured solutions former professionals thought were most effective.

Our economy’s leading Titans are breaking the stifling paradigm of “office culture” so innovation can flourish. Remember, the self-determined will pay dividends.

--Dean Douglas is the CEO of Unify. Prior to joining Unify in January, 2014, Douglas served as president and CEO of Westcon Group.

[Image: Flickr user Blake Patterson]

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4 Comments

  • Really interesting article, thanks for that. We believe if more people genuinely enjoyed their work then everyone would benefit, including employees, customers and shareholders and often we are asked 'what's the trick?' And at the end of the day there is no trick or solution, it's what works for you and what works for your company and their culture. Employees feel guilty if they don't put the 'recommended' hours in, but then also feel guilty for not having that 'balance.' This article is great because it makes it about the individual, rather than generic rules. We just need to be open to change and allow ourselves to be in situations where we can try things out and see what works for our work and life.

  • Hello Dean! What a superb read, thank you for sharing, and that your message comes from the top, from applying it with success is revolutionary. SO refreshing when the focus shifts and isn't it exciting...entering this new paradigm where so much is possible and we can finally put the old factory mentality to rest!