Anstice Blog

Forget Work-Life Balance

Posted on May 31, 2018 by anstice communications

By Sheenah Rogers-Pfeiffer, Founder and Chief Strategist

I was recently asked about “work-life balance” and creating culture within Anstice Communications. My answer to this was, “Work-life balance is just a fancier term for 9 to 5. The future is work-life integration.” If you think about it, the premise and desire for work-life balance is derived from creating rigid boundaries. 

What is “balance?”
We seem to strive for balance at every stage of life. During your younger years, balance was about travel and friendships functioning around building a career. Your priorities change as you get older, and balances becomes about making it home for dinner or to your child’s dance recital. Being in my later years as a working mom, I can tell you that there is no such thing as balance. The concept of balance sets me up for failure every day. As a type-A personality, how can I possibly be satisfied with the concept of being 50% good at something at any given time? Alternatively, I like to think of work-life integration as “finding a rhythm.” A friend of mine put it to me this way a few months back, and it really stuck. Finding a rhythm is directly linked to the principles of happiness—mainly, letting go and management. Balance involves setting restrictions, whereas rhythm implies self-awareness to integrate actions with needs at different times. 

Integration in the workplace
Integration is a term used in the marketing world a lot. It’s based on understanding a need and curating the right ways to fill that need that all work together seamlessly. Think about this in respect to your own life. Change is inevitable, and your needs will always change. Thus, the way in which you fulfill those needs will need to change. 

As an employer, understanding this concept is the first step towards helping your team achieve healthy work-life integration. For example, I have one staff member who is extremely driven to contribute to philanthropy and travel. I have another who may be a single mother. Their employment agreements look fundamentally the same within the company, but the way in which I, as an employer, can help fulfill their individual needs is different. One may be younger and willing to work from the plane or put in some late hours to allow the flexibility to fulfill her outside passions. The other may want a more formal work schedule with some flexibility to pick up the kids from school early and work from home with them if they’re sick. Each one is at different phases of life, but they have the same requirements to integrate their job into their life. 

The trick to successful work-life integration is ensuring that each party is accountable to one another. The employer and employee must communicate their needs and create the structure together so they can follow through on what is required from the other. For example, if an employee is leaving work early a lot and not getting the job done, the trust is damaged. The same applies to an employee who is over-achieving in their job and isn’t allowed to leave early. 

Integration-building culture
Expanding on my above point, integration helps fuel a positive and happy work culture because it naturally removes the “I” mentality. Rather than the employee looking at themselves being placed in a box to fit into, they become understanding of their team’s personal situations. This creates empathy, which is one of the top characteristics of a great leader. If your team feels understood, they are able to understand others’ personal needs and avoid comparing themselves to their peers. This fuels a collaborative culture that is still focused on high performance—it’s up to the collective team to perform at their best and not let others down. There also becomes a subconscious awareness within the team that there is “zero tolerance” for comparisons. For example, Jill complains that Jane left work early on Friday while she stayed late. If Jane and Jill communicate about the work they have to get done and they are both aware and accountable that it will get done, it doesn’t matter if Jane left early or not. 

What are your ideas around work-life integration, and how have you seen the benefits within your workplace? 

Sheenah Rogers-Pfeiffer is Founder and Chief Strategist at Anstice Communications, Canada’s leading boutique agency specializing in meaningful disruption strategies and FX.

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