Balance v. Integration

April 3, 2009 § Leave a comment

Someone recently told me that her boss was encouraging people at her company to consider trying to achieve work/life integration as opposed to work/life balance. Her interpretation of what he meant by work/life integration would be more of an intrusion on the boundaries of her private life. She felt strongly that the company was trying to take advantage of its employees and encroach upon personal time. While this may be true of her experience, I think of work life integration in a different way.

As an employee, I want my workplace to embrace and uphold the values that I hold near and dear: Ethics, integrity, diversity, community, respect, creativity. I know that I’m going to do my best work with an organization whose values I integrate in my personal life, and that I will be more successful if I can bring my whole self and unique personality to the job.

As a manager, I recognize that an employee’s personal life is their priority, and while I expect the very best from my team, they are not going to achieve top performance if they are not in a supportive workplace. If employees feel free to bring their whole selves, their individual personalities to the office, they will be more likely to do their most inspired and creative work.

It is important to uphold the boundaries between work life and personal life. However, there is no doubt that both influence and give shape to our whole identity, and it is impossible to make that clean separation. In my experience, the places where I have done my best work are where I have had the most fun and felt the most supported by my employer to take care of my family. I was encouraged to bring my personality to the workplace, and yet the boundaries of my personal life and needs was clear and respected. As an employee, I this is where I do my best work, and as a manger, this is where I observe my direct reports flourishing.

This personal philosophy is one of the reasons why I haven’t made the personal/professional separation between my social networking tools. I am connected to colleagues on Facebook, and friends and family on LinkedIn. They serve different purposes, and the content that I share in each place varies accordingly. On Facebook, I’ll share things of a more personal nature, being mindful that people I work will see it. On Linked in, I’m only going to post things that are directly related to my work.

I have one Twitter account where I tweet about things that are interesting to me both personally and professionally. I considered getting two accounts on Twitter, but so far have decided against it, mostly for reasons of practicality. I’m already on so many different social networks, another account would be more of a hassle. Also, there is so much overlap between what interests me at work and at play, I find applicability for what I find and share on Twitter personally and professionally.

However, I maintain two blogs, this one being of a more professional nature. Paradoxologies is where I express my opinions about current events, talk about my latest knitting projects, and post my favorite recipes. The boundary between the content in those places is more clear to me, but even here in my more “professional” blog, my personality is evident, especially as I write about things like how my yoga practice helps me achieve work/life balance and integration, or what music podcast will help me be more productive.

The balance that we all seek between work and personal life is more achievable if employers support healthy work/life integration. Not everyone is lucky enough to have employers who are respectful of the boundaries and can still make a place for personal expression. As a manager and as an employee, I do what I can in the workplace to influence a positive office culture where this is possible.

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