I’m not sure about you, but at first, I absolutely loved working from home. No more commuting, fewer non-productive meetings, and bonus… I could get my laundry done during work hours instead of my weekend.
But slowly, I began to feel the negative consequences of working from home and struggled to achieve a healthy, work-life integration.
And apparently, I wasn’t alone as tons of studies have backed these up.
More Work Hours
55% reported putting in more work hours (not less).
Without the office encounters, it can become very lonely.
Work & Play Lines Blurred
Without physical separation, it’s hard to switch modes.
What is Work-Life Integration?
Work-life integration is just as it sounds- it’s the act of integrating your work duties into your home life and vice versa.
Personal and professional responsibilities are more intertwined instead of being treated as completely separate entities.
For instance, the flexibility of working from home means I can switch out the laundry and dishes throughout the day and take a quick break for a doctor’s appointment. It also means I can answer work emails while drinking my morning coffee.
This topic is especially important for those of us who:
But with access to our entire work life at the tips of our fingers, are we really gaining more flexibility, or are we just working more?
Work-Life Integration Vs. Work-Life Balance
Traditionally, it’s always been the goal to achieve a work-life balance. This meant tuning into work when you’re there and boosting your productivity to get more done at the office. The goal was to NOT bring work home if you could avoid it.
But with work literally being brought to the house, can we really achieve a balance? Not as easily.
Why Work-Life Balance Isn’t The Right Term Anymore
The digital age completely threw this concept upside down on its head. And it’s been coming at us for the past few decades.
And while there are multiple benefits to remote working, it’s also important that we realize the negative impacts it can have on our mental and physical health.
So, What’s the Work-Life Balance vs. Work-Life Integration?
Both aim to give you a fulfilling life by dividing your attention to both work and personal needs in a healthy way.
Work-life balance is the concept that we can balance our professional and personal obligations with distinct boundaries. When most of us were in the workplace, the term “balance” made sense.
When you’re at work, then you’re at work. When you’re at home, you’re at home. The emphasis was on “balancing” how much time you spent between the two and trying not to bring one life into the other.
Work-life integration is unique in that it is more realistic in that work and play will likely blend together in today’s digital age. The emphasis is learning strategies on how to make the blend work more seamlessly and lead a happy life without one side completely taking over the other.
So if this is the new norm, what are some strategies to help us navigate both work and play together?
Hacks to Integrate Professional and Personal Life
After three years of working remotely while managing a large household, here are some hacks I have found most effective in achieving a positive work-life integration.
1. Stop Pretending to Multi-Task
Studies after studies show that multi-tasking doesn’t work.
There is just no way that your brain can completely focus on two tasks at once. Pretending to do so is just a knock off your productivity.
For instance, when I’m writing an article while also thinking about the grocery list and what I’m going to make for dinner that night, nothing is getting done. I’m not actively writing, nor am I actively grocery shopping or cooking. I’m just stressing about it all, which isn’t productive.
So, the number one most important tip I have for you to achieve a happy work-life integration is to focus on one task at a time. This way, you actually can get more accomplished during the day and minimize the sense of being constantly overwhelmed.
2. Be Present (Create an On/Off Switch)
Honestly, it’s really hard to switch on and off between “work mode” and “personal mode.” The best way I have found to draw lines between the two is to be present on the task I am currently working on.
Here are some good daily examples:
Learning how to be present in the moment is a skill you need to hone in and practice. Fully engage in your current activities.
3. Pivot Focus From “Punching In” to Accomplishing Business Objectives
While I love the increased flexibility of working remotely, it can be difficult to separate what time I’m “working” from when I’m at “home.”
For the last decade, company culture dictated that your work hours were when you clocked in. If you’re in a work-from-home position that has you clock in and out, your work-life integration is probably easier to maintain.
But if you’re a salary earner who is “always on,” it gets a bit trickier.
This is where I recommend ditching the “clock in, clock out” mentality and instead opt for weekly objectives. Before the week starts, be very intentional about what tasks absolutely need to get done, what can be pushed, and what you can delegate out. Then, decide if you could reasonably get that work done in forty hours by timeboxing or guestimate workload.
Once you’ve achieved that, spend your week scratching off your business to-do list instead of focusing on “how many hours you put in.”
Focus on accomplishments and driving the needle, not clocking in the most hours. If you’ve accomplished those goals, then you’re done for the week and don’t need to stress yourself about doing more.
4. Leverage Technology
Okay, so all of these things so far sound great in theory, but how do you actually pivot your habits?
As someone running an online business from home, I have found leveraging a few tech hacks have been a life-saver. Here are some of my go-to’s.
1. Calendar Apps or Digital Planners
These are a life saver when it comes to putting boundaries on my personal and work life, and I honestly couldn’t live without them. I am currently testing out three digital planners.
But here’s a glimpse on what a week might look like:
As you can see, a digital calendar or planner can help you piece together your personal and work obligations into one giant calendar. This helps me stick to the task on hand, while also committing to the things I love to do like spending time with family.
2. To-Do List Apps
If a digital planner is a bit more than you want to sign up for, then a ToDo List app is the next best thing.
Think about how many things you have to do at any given point in time. When you’re constantly overlapping both work and personal tasks, it can do a number to your mental health.
That’s why time and time again, research shows you need to get it out of your head, and onto paper. It literally already unloads an immense burden because you don’t have to keep reminding yourself to do something.
While you can do this on a notebook, planner, or your smartphone, I’ve found an app to be much more helpful when it comes to task management.
3. Screen Time Blocking Apps
I am so excited about this one, and will be posting more soon on this. But you would be surprised how much time we waste with push notifications and doom-scrolling social media. This leads to an unhealthy domino effect of not being present and pushing off tasks we could have completed.
There are tons of screen time blocking apps where you can just analyze how much time you waste on these apps and you can limit your time spent on them.
Using one of these tech tools will actually help you with my next tip, which is setting clear boundaries for yourself.
5. Create Firm Boundaries
If your mind is anything like mine, it’s always going a mile a minute (especially at bedtime). I often found myself worrying about work or brainstorming, when I should have been engaging with my children more. Seriously, take a moment and create some strict rules or boundaries for yourself, which will help you stay present.
Here’s some of examples of ones we have made in our household.
1. Create Set Times or Activities For Personal Activities
My husband and I have made the decision that at certain times of the day, we cannot discuss work or be on our phones.
2. Create Set Times and Boundaries for Professional Activities
Let’s say you have work you need to complete. Instead of doing a little bit here and there throughout the day or week, we carve out very specific time for these projects to be completed. In essence, we create a “work schedule” for complete focus and productivity.
This brings me to my last life hack of remembering to let go of the guilt.
6. Let Go of the Guilt
Let’s face it. There are going to be times when life happens. If you were nodding your head at the previous suggestions, I get it. It’s just not always possible.
But I think most of us agree we can make a conscious effort to do better (I know I certainly had to!) and it’s always a work in progress.
Give yourself some kudos, because you’re doing a great job.