Work-life Balance vs. Work-Life Integration – Which is better?

In recent years, the Human Resources (HR) department is facing the tough question whether to choose work-life balance or work-life integration. The work-life balance is an old concept and now HR experts have begun experimenting with the new concept of work-life integration. But is work-life integration really better than work-life balance or is it just another fad? Let’s find out!

Understanding the difference between work-life balance and work-life integration

As per the old concept of work-life balance, work and life were two distinct spheres of activity. Organizations that followed this concept tried to limit the intermingling of the two distinctsets of activities. It was believed that doing so will help achieve a balance between work and life, which would be beneficial for employees. By separating work and life, employees could find time to relax and unwind and come back refreshed the next day. This would boost their creativity and productivity at the workplace, all while, providing them enough time to enjoy life with family and friends.

On the other hand, the concept of work-life integration talks about merging the two spheres of activity. This concept is based on the premise that technological advancements have made it almost impossible for employees to be completely separated from their work. With emails, text messaging and conference calls taking prominence, it is not possible for employees to keep away from their work even when they may be at home. The concept of work-life integration offers a pragmatic solution by merging work and life. This way, the employees would consider both activities to have equal importance and there would not be any differentiation. The organization would also be flexible in their approach and would be ready to make adjustments, as long as it does not hamper mission-critical processes.

How employees are responding to work-life integration?

Many organizations have reported resistance to work-life integration, especially during the initial phase of implementation of such HR policies. The primary grouse among employees is that a work-life integration policy will force them to work from home. While this may have some truth, employees need to realize that work-life integration will also give them the benefit offlexible office timings. For example, employees can take a break from office and completeimportant tasks from home. They can plan their own work timings and free themselves from the typical 8-hour work schedule. Or they can take a long vacation and manage critical tasks via email or phone. Such things could be possible only through work-life integration. It takes some time for employees to understand such benefits, but once they do understand, they certainly support work-life integration. However, there would always be camps that would continue to complain about work-life integration and root for work-life balance. For some employees, it’s too stressful to think about work when they are at home or immersed in other personal activities.

Work-life integration is also beneficial from the organization’s perspective. In today’s fast paced and competitive marketplace, a work-life integration policy would help in quick decision making. It would ensure that business processes could be run smoothly, even when someone’s shift may be over. In essence, work-life integration is not meant to overpower employees; rather, it’s a hybrid system that seeks to empower employees by giving them more choices about their work and life.

As can be seen, work-life integration seems to be better, especially when we consider today’s fast paced business environment and improvements in technology that allow people to work remotely. Work-life integration is definitely the future, even though it may continue to face resistance from certain groups.

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