Updated: Jan 25
You can have it all, provided you change your mindset
The term “work-life balance” remains in vogue after all these years. Talk to any busy professional, and there are high chances that the issue of finding time for his family, other relationships and health will be among his top challenges in life. The ‘Understanding Work-Life Balance Survey’ of 2,000 working professionals in India by Monster.com in 2019 revealed that 60 per cent of those surveyed rated their current work-life balance from average to terrible. Forty-five per cent of the respondents were from non-metro cities, where work-life balance is apparently lesser of an issue. The pandemic induced WFH has made matters worse.
The inherent nature of the concept means achieving the optimum work-life balance remains a chimaera. One is not supposed to bring work home after office hours.
The term 'work-life balance' implies that work and life are two disparate elements to be kept in silos within an individual. While in reality, work is an integral part of an individual's life, and the impact of an unsatisfactory work environment is bound to spill over in other aspects of the person's life.
Human beings are emotional creatures. A person brings his whole self to work and needs to be satisfied in all, or at least, most aspects of life to be at his productive best. This realisation has made the concept of ‘work-life balance’ evolve to ‘work-life integration.’
What and Why Work-Life Integration?
Work-Life integration is a positive approach to creating better synergies between all areas that define life- work, home/family, community, personal well-being and health. It is about ‘blending’ rather than separation; instead of compartmentalising life into parts, this concept recognises the merit of holistic betterment of the individual by erasing boundaries between different elements and striving for the overall fulfilment of life goals. Fulfilled individuals will make a productive workforce.
While technological tools have ushered the era of always-on, 24/7 connectivity at work, they have also brought new ways of virtual collaboration. Leveraging the flexibility provided by technology can lead us to live life the way we want it.
Strategies for Better Work-Life Integration?
If you are struggling to know when or how to give your attention to conflicting priorities, these strategies will help you to integrate the different needs and demands of your daily life:
1. Decide the principle for the day- Schedule some time in the early hours of every day (or the later hours of the day for the next day) to choose and decide the objectives that you would want to achieve during the day. Make a To-Do list accordingly, scheduling the activities that help you finish or carry you closer to your objectives. Work with a purpose in mind.
2. Blend Responsibilities- Instead of thinking about “work time” or “personal time”, focus on finding out the best time to carry out the activities that need to be accomplished during the day. It could mean devoting some time during the day to focus on an important personal project, checking emails after work hours, helping your daughter with her online classes in the day and work for most of the evening. Practice to seamlessly blend responsibilities during the day as per your convenience, without compromising on timelines and quality of your output.
3. Keep track of the hours when you are most productive- Everyone has a different body clock. Analyse your daily hours and notice the period when your concentration and energy levels are at their peaks. Is it early morning, late evening or bang in the middle of the day? Schedule the most important activities that demand a lot of your attention and focus in that time block. Respect your body clock to get the most out of your time.
4. Develop a ‘flexible routine’ mindset- Instead of blocking every waking hour in your calendar, use the concept of routine to prioritise what is important. If you have to help your child with the online class, you can’t be flexible with that time block, which means that you may have to keep some work tasks after your child goes to bed. Or maybe you can take that one audio conference call while working out on your home treadmill. Adjust your thinking to be open about the hours in the day when you complete the specific tasks instead of sticking to that hour-by-hour timetable.
5. Take short breaks throughout the day- A fresh mind is a prerequisite to sustaining high productivity. For that, it is essential to break the work monotony and refresh your mind. Work in short bursts. Spend your energies and give your undivided attention to a task for 45 mins-1 hour, and after you have finished, get away from your workstation/home office. Listen to music, go for a walk, talk to your spouse, relax. Then come back to your work and repeat. Such breaks will make you happier and focused in the long run.
6. Be willing to experiment- Work-life integration is a cycle, not an achievement. One will not attain it overnight; it will be a learning process entailing many trials and errors at the outset. Try with a small change, evaluate the results, then decide whether you want to persist with it to make it a habit. E.g. You can take the virtual Zumba class in the middle of the day rather than always missing the same in the “after-office” hours in the evening. See if small changes work for you before adding other elements. Don’t let perfectionism inhibit you from trying something new, and don’t berate yourself if something you tried didn’t work- it is called an ‘experiment’ for a reason!
It is possible to have a successful professional career along with a fulfilling personal life.
Practice these strategies to enjoy all aspects of your life, even if they aren’t always perfectly balanced.