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The Difference Between Work-Life Balance and Work-Life Integration

December 2, 2021 / Employee Wellbeing Best Practices

Modern technology has blurred the boundaries between our professional and personal lives in the digital age. At least 6 out of 10 Americans have an unhealthy work-life balance. Today, we’re “always on,” or connected via our devices, which can often lead to people checking late-night emails and Slack messages when they’re supposed to be disconnecting and unwinding after the workday.

That’s where work-life balance and work-life integration come into play. In this article, let’s talk about work-life balance — including how it differs from work-life integration — what has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how your organization can help.

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Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Integration: Key Differences

Scratching your head over the difference between work-life balance and work-life integration? While they’re based on the same ideals, the definitions are slightly different.

What is work-life balance? 

Work-life balance is a concept that focuses on completely separating our work lives from personal lives. The concept of work-life balance differentiates work time from personal time. For example, for those in the corporate world, weekdays from 9-5 are treated very differently from nights and weekends.

What is work-life integration? 

On the other hand, work-life integration focuses less on separating our work and personal lives, and more on prioritizing each at the right times. It emphasizes the potential benefits to integrating rather than compartmentalizing our responsibilities.

Here’s how Michelle Marquez, Associate Dean of Human Resources and Administration at UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, describes work-life integration: “Work-life integration creates a mindset that allows an individual to look at the big picture and synergistic interaction of all these components. There is not a sense of competing elements of work and life that must be evenly distributed.”

Of course, deciding between the benefits of work-life balance vs. work-life integration all depends on each employee’s personal preferences and lifestyle. “Work-life integration will not look the same for every person,” says Marquez. “So, you need to know exactly what this term means for you personally.”

 

How Has Work-Life Balance Changed in the Pandemic Era?

Work-life boundaries blurred even more during the COVID-19 pandemic, with so many people shifting to remote or hybrid work. Not changing environments and physically separating from work to head home at the end of the day can make it even harder for people to disconnect. This can lead to issues like employee burnout, lost productivity, a drop in morale and even turnover.

Remote work lends itself nicely to work-life integration as opposed to work-life balance. Employers are recognizing this newly emerging issue and identifying ways to help their employees achieve the right harmony in their lives, including:

  • Stress management tips
  • Mindfulness sessions
  • Flexible working hours
  • Flex work arrangements
  • Child/elder care support
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Vacation and sick time

Incorporating these ideas into your organization’s wellbeing program is a great way to encourage healthy habits and a fair balance between their work and personal lives. With that said, in order to equip and empower your employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance, you need to offer the right resources. The right health and wellbeing solution(s) makes it easier to implement and maintain lasting changes that shift the company culture and boost employee morale — so nobody in your workforce is burned out on the job.

A digital wellbeing ecosystem like Virgin Pulse’s Homebase for Health® brings all wellbeing resources together in one place, providing team members a centralized location where they can access what they need to proactively manage their health. Contact us for a demo.

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