In an interesting article on Fast Company, Dean Douglas makes a very good case for work-life integration, as an alternative to the supposed nirvana of work happiness, work-life balance. Definitely worth a read, as is the New Yorker article abut Wall Street it references.
For years now I’ve been advocating integration as a better solution than balance, ever since reading Maverick, about Ricardo Semler, who was quoted as saying “Every one of us has learned how to send emails on Sunday night. But how many of us know how to go a movie on Monday afternoon.” The trouble with the whole concept of “work-life balance” is that it pretends that work and life are two separate things, as if we somehow switch off living when we go out on a Monday morning to “make a living”!
When I’m at work, I don’t stop being a husband, brother, friend. I don’t stop being me, and turn into some robotic “work” version of me. And when I’m not at work I don’t stop being a coach, author, consultant – the ideas for a new approach, a new article, a new way to help a client, they don’t stop just because I’m not in the office. And I wouldn’t want them to – my best ideas come to me in the shower, or in a chat with friends. So yes, I send emails at 11:00 at night; and I sometimes get to sit in the garden or visit my local coffee shop on a weekday afternoon.
When you think of work as something separate from life, it’s hardly surprising that most workers spend their working week wishing their lives away waiting for the weekend. How much better would it be to have work environments that integrated our work with the rest of our lives, blurring the artificial boundaries that we currently feel obliged to observe?