Over the years, a rise in the usage of digital technology has blurred the boundary between work and personal life and the phrase “work-life balance” became a business buzzword to support the concept that employees should avoid letting work overtake their lives. But, COVID-19 has altered what work-life balance looks like as the coronavirus pandemic has vastly increased the number of remote workers, thrusting work and home lives under the same roof. As a result, work-life balance has never been more challenging and maybe employers and employees should tackle it from a new perspective.
“COVID-19 has altered what work-life balance looks like as the coronavirus pandemic has vastly increased the number of remote workers, thrusting work and home lives under the same roof.”
“Work-life integration entails integrating work into one’s life and blending all the different roles we play based on good time management.”
Work-life balance gave way to the concept of work-life integration
As the internet, digital technology and our “always-on” society began to evolve, some individuals tried to replace the idea of work-life balance (or having a good balance between the amount of time spent at work and personal time) with work-life integration. Work-life integration entails integrating work into one’s life and blending all the different roles we play based on good time management. It is an approach that creates more synergies between all the areas that define life in its totality: work, home and family, community, personal health and wellbeing. Thus, it does away with the binary understanding of work and personal life – of partaking in either one or the other with a sense of competition between each of these two aspects of peoples’ lives.
Work-life integration can become work-life harmony
The difference between work-life balance and work-life harmony is pretty simple. With the former, there is an implication that you have to sacrifice your “life” for work. But, how can you truly be fulfilled in life if you think of the eight working hours of your day as being shackled to earning your living? The concept of work-life harmony, on the other hand, allows your work to be experienced as a positive and fulfilling part of one’s life. It allows people can choose to be happy both at home, and at work and that work no longer needs to be seen as the necessary evil or a drudge activity. Instilling work-life harmony better ensures employees are truly present in whatever place they find themselves.
“how can you truly be fulfilled in life if you think of the eight working hours of your day as being shackled to earning your living?”
“Instilling work-life harmony better ensures employees are truly present in whatever place they find themselves.”
In an article titled, 5 ways toward achieving work-life harmony, Dr. Joti Samra, CEO & Founder of MyWorkplaceHealth in British Columbia, Canada says: “We’ve been conditioned to think that true happiness lies in achieving a balance between our work and our personal lives. But with technology and the shift of work from something that pays our bills to a passion project, balance no longer means what it did 10 years ago. Instead, work-life harmony allows us to think about our lives differently. It becomes less about tipping an imaginary scale and more about the imaginary orchestra you can create.”
Dr Samra goes on to give these five ideas toward achieving work-life harmony
Make conscious choices
Conductors create great harmonies by getting different instruments in the orchestra to work together effectively and by emphasising different instruments at different times. For us, this means ensuring we make conscious choices about the activities we engage in, including work, and what is important to us. This also means attempting to have a plan in regards to the time we spend. Whenever possible make conscious decisions about how much we are going to work and how we are going to spend the rest of our time.
Work with passion
When possible work in a field that we can be passionate about, or find aspects of our current position that we love. Research suggests that we are happier and more invested in our work when we can find meaning in that work.
Prioritise working with people we like
Since we are spending a significant portion of time with our co-workers, our relationships with them can affect how we feel throughout the day. We are likely to be happier if we enjoy the people we are working with. This could mean choosing to spend more time with the people we like and get along with at work or building better relationships with the people we work with. Alternatively, if we are working with people we don’t get along with we should attempt to better manage those relationships or conflicts, or even consider switching work environments, if need be.
Stay active and get rest
Exercise and sleep have a positive impact on our brain function and our productivity at work. While our busy lives don’t always make it easy for us to get the optimal amount of activity or rest, something is better than nothing. Consider starting small and finding ways to incorporate movement into the workday (such as walking or biking to work, using a stand-up desk or exercise ball instead of a standard chair, or incorporating a walking meeting into your schedule).
Sleep is especially important when it comes to our focus, productivity, and creativity at work. Establishing a sleep routine – where we go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning – can help us achieve a more restful sleep. If a routine isn’t possible, there are a number of ways to increase our sleep hygiene that may be easier to incorporate into your schedule.