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Work-Life Balance Vs. Work-Life Integration: More Than Mere Semantics

With more and more organizations trending towards flexible work schedules, including partial to full telecommute, compressed work schedules, flextime (employee chooses his/her own hours), and even job sharing, the concept of a healthy work-life balance is a hot topic in today's employment world.

Wikipedia defines work-life balance as a concept including the proper prioritizing between work and lifestyle. This wording hardly sounds satisfying enough to this blogger to validate it as a defacto web definition. The truth is, a really sound definition has proven elusive. After searching the web high and low, above the fold and below, around the margins and even in the actual html code itself, I don't really see one. Perhaps this is a big reason why people struggle to not only achieve a proper work-life balance, but some employers are actually rebuffing the very notion of it and struggling with the term itself.

I'm going to leave Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer out of the discussion for now. Her views on flexible scheduling, telecommuting, etc. are well documented. Whether you agree with them or not is entirely your right as a person. More recently, another high-level executive of a tech giant, however, also voiced her disagreement with the term "work-life balance." Cisco Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Padmasree Warrior was cited as saying that instead of work-life "balance," we should be striving for work-life "integration." Commence eye-rolling with the semantics involved between the two terms all you want, but there is an enormous difference to be reflected upon here.


Much like I mentioned before that you are free to agree or disagree with Mayer's views, you have the similar right on the Cisco CTO's views as well. Before jumping to your opinion though, read her explanation behind her preferring the term "integration" instead.

"I like the word integration much better. And the reason I like integration is it's not just your work and your family; you have to take care of yourself, And 'yourself' doesn't just mean your physical self, but your emotional and spiritual self." (Padmasree Warrior, Cisco CTO)

She goes on to mention that businesses need to move away from hiring pure go-getters and trend toward go-givers, referring to people who give back, both at work and in their personal lives. Giving back helps not only the person receiving the help, but also results in increased happiness in the go-giver. Businesses also reap the rewards of employing a happier employee, which is almost always a more productive employee.

Balance or integration, whichever term you prefer is also your choice. Perhaps, after we reflect more on the Cisco CTO's words, someone will be able to arrive at a more satisfactory definition of the concept. Maybe it will all result in making steadier progress toward a more satisfactory realization of the actual concept of balance or integration in the employment world as well.

Check out our lifestyle section for more information on a successful work-life balance, integration, or whichever other term you may prefer. You'll also find other great employment related information including: job tips, career development, information for recent graduates, and more.