Work-Life Integration: Why Loose Boundaries Push Top Talent Out the Door

Before the invention of smartphones and laptops, most employees maintained a clear boundary between their work and personal lives; however, today’s generation has a more difficult time creating a distinction between the two.

While it is often a boon to businesses in the short-term, having employees strapped to their smartphones may lead to employee burnout. They are also far more likely to feel resentful toward their employers.

Of course, many industries require that employees are available beyond the workday. As such, employers must find ways to engage employees outside of the office, without being overly intrusive.

Work-Life Balance

Before the term “work-life integration” was popularized, work-life balance was used to describe the separation between work and personal life. The term was used to emphasize the importance of time outside of the office, whether that focused on family or self-care.

While the distinction between these spheres is useful, it isn’t always possible. In addition, many people aspire to work in fields that they truly enjoy. As a result, they aren’t always watching the clock tick, eagerly anticipating the moment when they get to go home. Instead, work becomes a part of their identity, with a less stark contrast between the professional and personal. The term work-life integration was created to reflect this synergy, which offers more flexibility.

Work-Life Integration

With that being said, there are some issues with this language. For one, having boundaries isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the lack of boundaries may lead to employee burnout. For one, star employees are often tempted to go above and beyond, and may volunteer to take on extra work. Sadly, what begins as enthusiastic drive often leads to burnout. Whether it’s extremely long days at the office, or working endless hours at home, these people will inevitably suffer from exhaustion.

It may seem paradoxical, but modern managers may have to instruct their staff to work less. Highly motivated employees often take less breaks, but aren’t productive as a result. Spending endless hours staring at a computer often leads to sloppy mistakes, and it doesn’t facilitate creative or strategic thought. In addition, managers may want to help staff plan out their days, or encourage them to plan breaks ahead of schedule.

Some individuals feel more comfortable switching gears when management encourages them to do so. Likewise, many will mimic the behaviour of their superiors. So, if a leader never stops to smell the roses, they’ll likely keep their head down and work. As such, it is important that leaders show that they require some time away from their desks.

Ultimately, providing gentle reminders about time management provides employees with a foundation for success. Of course, showing appreciation for work completed out of office will also make employees feel appreciated. People who truly love what they do may enjoy doing some work outside of the office, and they shouldn’t be discouraged from this behaviour.