As we already know, work is part of life. However, most people don't want it to be part of their entire life; they want to devote their time and energy to their work and personal lives—like their families, hobbies, and personal responsibilities. In general, there are two ways to achieve that scenario: work-life balance and work-life integration.
Work-life balance and work-life integration can create space between personal life and work. But, the two have very different approaches to achieving a balance between their personal and work lives.
So, now the question is, in the context of getting everything you want from work and personal life, which is more beneficial—work-life balance or work-life integration?
Before discussing the benefits of work-life balance vs. work-life integration, let's discuss the differences between the two first!
Work-life balance is all about creating clear and firm boundaries between work and personal life. If you apply a work-life balance, you set aside a certain amount of time each day to work. For example, 9am-6pm, you only focus on work. Outside of those hours, you are fully focused on your personal life.
Meanwhile, work-life integration is blending the boundaries of personal life and work. Rather than drawing a line between 'private time' and 'work time', employees choose when to tackle their responsibilities at a time that suits them best. If you implement work-life integration, you are free to handle personal tasks during work hours—and vice versa. For example, you spend time washing clothes while having a meeting, or sending emails while accompanying your child to play.
Work-life balance creates clear boundaries between work and personal life—while work-life integration combines the two. So, the question is, which one is the most profitable?
And, the answer is it depends.
“None of these perspectives is more beneficial overall because people are different and have different needs,” says time management and productivity coach Alexis Haselberger.
If you are not sure which one is right for you, try asking yourself. “Do I feel better when I have clearer boundaries between work and home?” If the answer is yes, chances are you will respond well to the strict boundaries involved in work-life balance. If the answer is no—and you prefer flexibility and fluidity between your work and life—you may be a better match for work-life integration.
One of the main benefits of work-life balance is that it allows you to devote your full attention to your work or personal life at any given time.
So, when you're working, you're really working; You don't think about the things you need to get done around the house or try to make trips to the supermarket in between meetings. So, it can help you to be more effective and productive.
Then, when you're done with work, you're really done; you can spend time with your loved ones or take up a hobby or spend time on a Netflix marathon without being distracted by emails or deadlines. Thus, it can help you to be less stressed, more mindful, and more engaged with your personal life.
Adopting a work-life balance can also help you better gauge whether things are really in balance—or whether work takes up so much time and energy that your personal life suffers, or vice versa.
One of the main benefits of work-life integration is flexibility.
The flexibility provided by work-life integration allows employees to coordinate their schedules and responsibilities in a more productive way.
Work-life integration allows you to get it done when you need to get it done, when you need it—regardless of whether and where it happens during the work day. So, if you want to take a meeting call while you're cooking dinner, or invite the kids to play in your office during the school holidays, you have the flexibility to do so—which can make it easier to handle work responsibilities and life responsibilities without being distracted and one of which must be sacrificed.
Another major benefit of work-life integration is that, for most people—especially employees who work from home—integrating their work and life is not an option. So, someone who implements work-life integration tends to be more prepared when the remote and/or hybrid work environment increases.
So, between the two, decide which one is the most suitable for you. Between work-life balance vs. work-life integration, no one has more benefits than the other; it's all about which work style suits you best and gives you the work experience (and life experience!) you're looking for.
Whatever you choose, remember that the goal is to help you reduce stress, be more efficient, and improve your personal well-being.