What is healthy work-life integration?

Work-life integration is the practice of reaching equilibrium in allocating the right amount of time and mental focus to both work and your personal life, so that you feel fulfilled and productive in both areas. Achieving this healthy balance looks quite different for everyone, depending on their unique circumstances and preferences. A lack of work-life balance occurs when work dominates, taking precedence over your personal life. This lack of balance can be overwhelming and affect mental, physical and social wellbeing.

Outward signs of an unhealthy work-life balance can include:

  • Constant overwork: Consistently working long hours – including over weekends and holidays – without taking sufficient time out to rest or meet personal commitments.
  • Neglected relationships: Regularly sacrificing quality time with family and friends.
  • Strained relationships: Leading on from the previous point, experiencing difficulties in maintaining healthy relationships with family and friends due to work-related commitments.
  • Lack of self-care: Failing to prioritise self-care activities, which include taking regular exercise, getting sufficient sleep, and spending time doing the things that restore energy and “feed the soul,” like hobbies and interests.
  • Evidence of burnout: Burnout leads to not only physical exhaustion, but also mental and emotional fatigue brought about by chronic stress and work-related pressure.

Achieving healthy work-life integration when working remotely

One of the biggest benefits of remote work is greater flexibility. But this flexibility can lead to increased pressure. When you have the flexibility to work from anywhere at any time, it can feel like you need to make yourself available at any time.  Here are some work-life balance tips for a healthy relationship between your professional and personal life – particularly when working from home.

  1. Get ready for work the same way you do for the office
    When you work from home, you do not have the same pressure to get dressed and ready before commuting to the office. But it is still constructive, both physically and mentally, to get ready for work in the same way. Being punctual and prepared is an antidote to stress and can help you meet deadlines timeously without rushing through your tasks.
  2. Work in a space that is distinct from the rest of your home.
    Working from home can be a lot more distracting than working from the office, particularly you are alone, without any colleagues nearby to motivate you to stay productive and busy. Choose a spot where you are able to concentrate and work productively. Keep that space distinct from the other parts of your home so that you can disconnect from work at the end of the working day.
  3. Choose your productive hours
    We each have productive hours where we are the most active, alert and able to focus. For some people, it is first thing in the morning; for others who are night owls, it may be in the evening. Pay attention to when you are most productive and block that time off for your most important work-related activities.
  4. Create a schedule and stick to it
    If you’ are working remotely, set a schedule that works for you and try your best to stick to it.Not only will this regulate your day and make the best use of your alert hours, but your team will also know exactly when they can and cannot reach you. You will also be able to schedule both work and personal activities during your day to suit your needs while still working a manageable number of hours each day.
  5. Make plans to unplug
    If your living space and your workspace are the same, it can feel hard to step away from work at the end of the day. To combat this, make plans for after work. Whether it is having happy hour drinks with a friend or going to the gym, if you have somewhere to be at the end of your workday you will be more likely to sign off and stop working. It is also a good idea to unplug throughout the day. Take your dog for a walk during your lunch hour or spend 10 minutes meditating. When you unplug, you relax your body and mind and give yourself the opportunity to boost your energy levels.
  6. Use personal errands or activities to take breaks throughout the day.
    One of the upsides of being able to work remotely is greater productivity. Because without having to commute, attend unnecessary meetings or be distracted by office chatter you have more uninterrupted time to get work done. However, the monotony of working alone can be counterproductive. One way to balance work and personal life is to use personal errands to break up your day, getting you out from in front of your desk or computer. This way, you will be able to take productive breaks that will help you get personal tasks done and will change up your day.
  7. Understand productivity
    Productivity is not necessarily measured according to the amount of time you invest in completing a task. Being productive is more about the efficiency born focus and clear-thinking in getting a task done – and done well. It is not possible to focus and be productive for eight hours at a stretch. Overall, it serves productivity to take breaks and maintain a balance between work and personal life.

See balance as being achieved over time – not in a day

When it comes to work-life integration, your overall physical, emotional, and mental health should be your main concern. Prioritising your health should not be seen to consist of actions beyond those of your normal routine. It can be as simple as partaking in daily meditation, taking a regular lunchbreak or exercise. It is important to understand that there is no such thing as perfect work-life balance. Instead of striving for the perfect schedule and being frustrated, strive for a realistic one. Some days, you might focus more on work, while other days you might have more time to spend time your loved ones. In the long-run balance is the outcome.

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

What are your thoughts on Work-life balance vs work-life integration? 

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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