Life-Work Integration, Not Work-Life Balance

Last month, there was a Dilbert comic strip that I thought was particularly compelling. In it, evil CEO Catbert says that the company is no longer going to use the term “work-life balance.” This is because it implies that the “life” part is important. Instead, he says that the term will be replaced with “work-life integration.” This way, “it’s easier to make you work when you would prefer being with loved ones.”

Funny, I know, but I think Catbert might be on to something here… except he has it completely backwards. Rather than implying that your life is important, the term “work-life balance” implies that you need to balance the “work” part of your life with the “life” part of your life. This isn’t necessarily true. You don’t have to choose between your career and your personal life. There is a third option: life-work integration.

Who said that you have to choose? Work and play can be the same thing. Yes, being able to parlay your favorite hobbies and favorites things to do into a viable career is a luxury that eludes many people, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t extract some joy from your work. If your work is fun and rewarding, it becomes less like work and more like another (major) component of your overall life. What you do is a big part of who you are.

The “modern life” comic strip at the top of this post effectively echoes this sentiment. As part of my work as a freelance writer and professional blogger, I sit hunched over a computer, writing articles for my clients. As part of my fun, I watch funny videos on Youtube and chat with my friends on Facebook. But you know what? The YouTube videos and Facebook chats are actually a part of my work too. The chats function as networking and the videos serve as education.

That’s why life-work integration just seems to make more sense. For instance, I cover trade shows as part of my work and, truth be told, I’m much busier during those few days than I am during the rest of the year. Is it stressful? Yes. But do I enjoy it? Yes (or at least parts of it). That’s the integrated life. I’m never really off the clock, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Forget balance; seek integration instead.