Entrepreneurs know how difficult it can be to not be a workaholic at the initial stages of launching a new business. Hustling is not a choice when your responsibilities range from acquiring startup funding to sourcing and onboarding good employees and growing a client base. The idea that material success is most likely to be achieved by those who work long and hard started to gain traction in the 1970s. Recently, this has given rise to what is called hustle culture, a concept that has enjoyed much social media coverage and grown a quite a following. Hustle culture describes the common, modern workplace environment that emphasises hard work and long hours as the key to success. Hustle culture does not stop at describing the way business owners and leaders work. It applies to employees as well and has also crept into the way that employees spend their free time – the term side-hustle is in common use to describe work performed for income that is supplementary to one’s primary job. What is the downside of hustle culture? It has a good chance of leading to burnout, as the unrelenting pressure to work hard and achieve more takes its toll on a person’s mental and physical health.

Is healthy work-life integration probable while embracing hustle culture? 

The answer is a resounding “No.” Popular protagonists of hustle culture and the social media phenomenon #riseandgrind may preach that we should be productive all the time, but when it comes to work-life balance, people need to engage in a variety of activities and rest. An eight-hour working day that results in a solid eight hours of productive output is not realistically achievable. Also, productivity tends to decrease when a person works without downtime over an extended period. Workaholics and people who struggle to find the time for self-care will find themselves at higher risk for fatigue and stress-related health issues such as burnout.

Here are eight characteristics associated with a lack of work-life integration

  1. You cannot stop thinking about work in personal time. People who battle to put work out of their minds – due to being a workaholic, having too big a workload, feelings of guilt or poor planning – are at higher risk of burnout.
  2. Your personal and work relationships are beginning to suffer. You may lack patience and be easily irritated with employees or feel distant with family and friends.
  3. You are operating at less than 100 percent. You regularly feel like you are coming down with a bug or have unexplained aches and pains. You lack energy or find it difficult to focus when at work.
  4. Everything outside of work seems tedious. You feel lethargic and disinterested in doing anything unless you really must. You often turn down invitations, further isolating yourself from your family and friends.
  5. You spend a lot of money outsourcing personal tasks. You have no time or inclination for domestic tasks and have a growing personal to-do list waiting for the day when you “have time” to get around to it.
  6. You struggle to take time off – even when you are unwell or when you need to take care of personal tasks. You cannot remember your last real holiday and do not have plans to take one.
  7. You have fallen out of love with your career. You cannot imagine doing what you do for the rest of your life even if you work in a field, or company, you once thoroughly enjoyed. It feels impossible to imagine continuing life as it currently is for much longer.
  8. Nothing is a fit. You feel like no matter what you are doing, you should be doing something else. Over time, this lack of presence and direction can lead to questioning the meaning and purpose of your life.

Some keys to a healthy work-life integration

It is not so much about setting a distinct boundary or splitting your time equally between work and personal time, but rather making sure you feel fulfilled and happy in both areas of your life. Here are three keys to planning toward work-life integration:

  • Conscious time management. Maintaining a 40-hour work week in order to have more free time outside of your business can pay dividends in healthy work-life balance and productivity. The time you spend away from work is important for your wellbeing and it may increase the quality and quantity of your output.
  • Holistic diary management: Being able to plan and prioritise work tasks effectively, to ensure that enough time is allocated for both work and personal pursuits.
  • Enough latitude to be flexible: Being adaptable and able to adjust your work schedule to accommodate unforeseen circumstances – including personal needs – without placing work commitments at risk. Flexible scheduling also makes it much easier to pursue ongoing education or take part in professional development opportunities.

How leaders can create work-life integration for themselves

When the buck stops with you, it is easy to let your work life consume you. However, it is important to remember that as a leader, it is your responsibility to set an example for your team. Championing work-life integration for yourself is crucial because your example signals what you expect from employees. Here are five pointers that can help you create good work-life integration for yourself:

  1. Dispel feelings of guilt. As a leader, it is easy fall into the trap of feeling guilty if you are not the person who opens up in the morning and turn the lights off at night – or of being a boss that does not delegate tasks to employees, because you do not trust them to deliver to your standards of perfection. It is important to understand that working long and hard without taking time out is highly likely lead to burnout.
  2. Prioritise and delegate your work. Delegating tasks is not a sign of weakness or incompetence, but rather a sign of trust and empowerment. It can help free up your time and energy, as well as develop and support your team members.
  3. Create a to-do list that includes personal time. Create a to-do list that includes both your professional and personal responsibilities. This will allow you to plan your day to achieve both and schedule time off to rest.
  4. Practice stress management: Implement self-care strategies to manage your energy and stress levels. For example, engage in regular physical activity or take up a hobby. In the long term, the responsible thing to do is to take quality time for yourself.
  5. Take meaningful breaks. Taking sufficient stretches of time off to recharge mentally and physically is essential for your personal wellbeing. It will help you think more clearly, stimulate creative thinking, and help toward making better decisions and being more productive in the long term.

Business leaders today have a better understanding of the importance of work-life balance. They recognise the role that they have as leaders in helping their employees to attain work-life integration. If you are committed to creating healthy work-life integration for yourself, it is important to know how to plan and prioritise and then to teach those you lead to do the same. To set the pace and lead the way.

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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