Your Engagement Discussions

Work-life balance or work-life integration?

The title of a recent Good Practice podcast "What does work-life integration mean for L&D?"caught my eye this week.  Varying factors at play in my own life have lead me to consider and have conversations around my work-life balance and so I was very curious to find out more about this different buzz phrase 'work-life integration'. And it's not just for the L&D people out there, the concept can be applied in any working context.

So what is the difference?  Ross Dickie explores this with Owen Ferguson and Justin Anderson, with Justin explaining that work-life balance suggests opposing forces with one or the other often tipping the scales.  Work-life integration on the other hand, encourages us to stop trying to define when you only do work and times when you only do life.  Work-life integration is where the two fit around each other in a flexible way.  He goes on to say quite rightly that between the hours of 9-5 pm, a perhaps traditional typical working day, that there are often some 'life' things to do.  So surely (where the job/profession allows) having the freedom to 'see to' these life things and do a bit more work later or earlier in the day instead, is a great solution?  And alongside this, surely the measurement of performance should be in productivity and output and not necessarily the hours worked?

The culture and purpose of the organisation are huge influences on work patterns, with some employers suspicious of 'skivers' whilst some employees may see this as an employer demanding more work for the same pay (if in order to achieve this flexibility, it could end up with the employer being 'always on'.)

And then there are other factors which feed into this such as time for development - should this be done in work time?  or life time? or in both?  It seems that organisations deemed as 'good' are those that give their employees time and opportunity to stretch themselves and to explore new stuff.  After all when this development relates to the job or organisation, surely it builds the skills and develops the individual and teams?  Which is surely a great thing?

And of course, what we really need is a diverse workforce - so a combination of people that want to work core hours then have 100% time away from work, mixed up with more flexible workers who view work as part of their life and can mix the two positively.  And an organisation that supports both.

So the question remains - do I want to achieve work-life balance, or to embrace work-life integration?  Personally I now know where I'm heading, and I most definitely am fortunate to be in the position where I can harness the flexible approach. All I need to do now is shift my own mind-set, and when life stuff happens, attend to it - as I'm sure worrying about not attending to it is probably more damaging to my productivity and focus.

What are you thoughts on this?

Do you strive for work-life balance?

Or are you embracing work-life integration?

What is your organisation's approach to working patterns?

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  • I think work-life integration is a logical and sensible approach particularly when one considers that work related stress already costs Britain 10.4 million working days per year

    • Wow Lucy - thanks for this!  This is a great infographic and its brilliant to see content being developed and shared in different formats.  Really glad the article inspired you to put this together!  I love your image of the phone with work and home text messages at the top!

  • This great blog from perkbox talks further on this subject:

    Drop the balancing act: How to manage to have a life when you’re working
    For many, the dual concepts of work and life are a balancing act. Meaning: the notion of having a balance between work and life doesn’t exist- it’s a…
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