Gone are the days when you could come home from the office and unplug. We are now living in a 24/7, seven day a week, always connected business environment. Your company doesn’t stop running when you leave the office or when you go on vacation. For the past few decades, journalists, authors, speakers and executives have talked about the importance of work life flexibility but that discussion has shifted in this new environment.
Now, the new phrase is “work life integration,” where professionals have to blend what they do personally and professionally in order to make both work. Many professionals, especially boomers, aren’t prepared for this major shift because it’s happened so fast, just like the speed of technology, that it’s been hard to take a step back and come up with a better solution. Millennials, on the other hand, have already started to adapt to this reality. They’re on Facebook talking to their friends at work and answering business emails when they leave the office.
There are a few reasons why mastering work life integration are so essential right now:
1. The boundaries between family and career are blurred. The demands of the workplace are greater because business never sleeps and companies are trying to do more with fewer resources. In a study by the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), the found that more than 50% of workers say that work conflicts with life responsibilities at least two or three times per week. Due to this, about 40% of women have delayed having children. It’s hard to know when and when you aren’t working these days because technology has enabled us to message personal or professional contacts instantly. Many of us millennials also suffer from the fear of missing out (FOMO) so we’re always tuned into Facebook, Instagram and other platforms to make sure that we never miss a moment in our friends lives. In addition, a lot of employees have one phone or business and personal so it becomes impossible to avoid either.
2. Employees are willing to give up their personal time to do work and many have no choice. In a study by TeamViewer and Harris Interactive, they found that 61% of employees are willing to work during vacation. In another study by Gyro and Forbes Insights, they found that 98% of executives check email during their off time and 63% check every one or two hours during their off time. Some employees are doing this because they have no choice, especially managers and executives who have direct reports, and others do it because they feel like they have to. Of course, employees who are really passionate about their work become addicted and are actually excited about new emails coming in.
3. There are more employees working remote than ever before. One of the biggest trends that I enjoy talking about is the rise of the remote worker, which has been made possible because of technology like Skype, social networking and Google Docs. Working from home is also a benefit that millennials, and other workers, are prioritizing over higher salaries because of their desire to integrate their work and life. In total, 30 million Americans work form home at least once each week, which will increase by 63% in the next five years. About 3 million Americans never go to an office and 54% are happier working from home than in an office. Furthermore, 70% of employees work from alternative locations (not just home) on a regular basis. What these numbers show you is that millions of people are working in a personal setting, maybe even in their bedrooms. When this happens, it’s hard to separate work and life and thus they are integrated even without your consent.
Now that I’ve shown you the “why”, I’m going to tell you the “how”. The “how” being how to go about integrating your work and life so you remain sane and are able to accomplish everything you want to do from a personal and professional perspective. I recommend that you do work when you believe you can perform the best and do personal activities to break up your day.
What I do is have a flexible calendar so that I can schedule things like going to the gym, writing articles, reading, meetings, research at around the same time each day. This way, I get into a habit so I have more control over what I’m doing and when I’m doing it. I do more of my work in the morning because my productivity is higher and I usually schedule lunches during the day so that I have face time and social interactions. I also make a list of my annual goals and break them down by what I need to do each quarter, each month, each week and each day in order to fulfill them. Work life integration is going to become a more common way of how people manage their career and personal lives every year.
Dan Schawbel is a workplace speaker and the New York Times best-selling author of Promote Yourself. Subscribe to his free monthly newsletter for more career tips.