The growth of work life integration

Jo Ind is an author of books, a newspaper journalist and writer for print and digital media.

Jo Ind is an author of books, a newspaper journalist and writer for print and digital media.

The good news for those who've struggled to strike a work-life balance is that you’re let off. Work-life balance is so turn-of-the-millennium (darling). Work-life integration is the must-have of the millennials decade.

It was six years ago the Chartered Management Institute produced a report Management Futures – The World in 2018 which claimed that rather than balancing work and home demands, by 2018 we will be weaving the two together. 

More recently Mashable has been asking if work-life integration is the new norm and Harvard Business Review has considered what successful work-life integration looks like

What work life integration is for me

To me work-life integration looks like doing my supermarket shopping in five minutes while waiting for a meeting at work to begin. It’s picking up an email from the office while standing in the school playground. It’s saying to a colleague: “Let me share this document with you so you can work on it tomorrow at home.” 

It means the boundaries between my paid work and the rest of my life are less rigid than they were before Google was a map, a calendar, a filing system, a note book and an address book as well as a store, a video channel and a search engine.

Where I once restricted work to work, I can now nip into work while watching telly, lounging by a hotel pool or crawling through a tunnel in a soft play centre.

I CAN do these things.  But is it a good thing to do?  Do I want to?

For me the answer is about the extent to which the integration is within my control. For the most part Google and its suite of tools have greatly enhanced my life.  Being able to glance at work emails when I’m not in the office makes working part-time considerably easier. I don’t have to respond to emails if I don’t want to, but I can pick up on important things, if do.

And because I am only ever a click away, I can leave the office to see my son star as Joseph in his school nativity play or care for him when he is ill.  It’s a win-win situation.  Everyone gains.

Apart from the capability of picking up emails anywhere, the tool I find most useful in leading an integrated life is Google calendar.

I remember the days, not so long ago, when, if I was trying to organise a get-together with a friend, she had to go home to look at her calendar before we could arrange anything.  She and her husband kept a calendar in their kitchen, so they could see what the other was doing. This was fine – unless she was at work, in the pub or anywhere else when she needed to make an arrangement. How she needed Google calendar!

I now have a Google calendar for home and one for work. I have one for my husband and one for my son and I can access the calendars of whoever gives me permission in the office. 

This functionality is invaluable to anyone who aspires to lead an integrated life. If I need to arrange a doctor’s appointment, I can click into my work calendar, my home calendar and my son’s to find a space when all are free. And I can do this wherever I am - from my phone, from the office or from my desk top computer at home.

But the real beauty of Google calendar is that I can turn the calendars off.  I don’t share my home calendar with anyone outside the family. And when I’m at home or on holiday, I can tag a box which means my work calendar is not longer in my view.

Sometimes I need to see my personal and professional arrangements together. Sometime I want to separate the two.  The beauty of Google calendar is that I can integrate or not, depending on what my needs are at the time.

Google calendar is not just a tool for work-life integration.  It’s a metaphor for it too.