The work-life balance ideal, disrupted

Ask a dozen different people what it means to “go to work” and you’ll likely get a dozen different answers. What’s more—you'll probably get even more opinions about what it means to work full-time and what it takes to do so properly and successfully.  

Our definition of what constitutes work has changed dramatically over the last few years, but one thing continues to be perplexing: how to attain “work-life balance.”  

Even before the era of remote work becoming the norm, 60% of Americans reported struggling with maintaining a good work-life balance, while 55% of Americans didn’t use their paid time off, leaving 768 million days of vacation time unused. 

Additionally, what’s often referred to as ‘hustle culture’ has come to be viewed as psychologically unsustainable. This came in sharp focus during the period of pandemic lockdown, where people began to rethink what was essential to them in their lives when it came to considering work and personal time.  

From work-life balance to work-life integration 

When people consider work-life balance, they often see it as a competition between work vs. personal life. You can either reduce work stress to focus on your personal priorities, or you can put work first and ignore your personal needs.  

According to Colleen Frankwitz, Vice President of Talent Delivery at Korn Ferry, more practical solutions come when people reframe the situation entirely. 

“Work-life balance is often seen as a zero-sum game,” Frankwitz explains. “The professionals I see having the most success go beyond seeing things as ‘either/or.’ Instead, they take a ‘both/and’ approach, leading to an entirely new perspective: work-life integration.”  

Integrating your work and life

Work-life integration is about finding innovative ways to make your work part of your life, not separate from your life. Get insight on how you can reconcile all aspects of your life holistically, using the following steps:

  • Clarify what matters most to you: Consciously set your priorities based on those values. When you’re intentional about what is most important, you’re more likely to stand up for it.
  • Align your personal values with your work purpose: When your values and purpose are out of alignment, integration is a challenge. But when both are in alignment, you can tap into a "new source of energy and inner strength.”
  • Recognize how the different parts of your life affect each other: Get clear on who is most important to you in each facet of your life, what you can give those people, what you need from those people, and whether your priorities match each other.
  • Experiment: Be willing to work with your family, coworkers and community to try new ways to get things done in ways that benefit everyone.

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How employers can help 

Work-life integration (or work-life balance) can’t be completely achieved by individuals alone.

"Organizations need to be open to collaborating with talent to create new ways of working together," Frankwitz says. "It's time to embrace a new normal. From allowing employees to work remotely and prioritizing workloads to encouraging time off and allowing employees to set their own schedules, companies and leaders play a key role in helping shape and influence the dynamic of their teams and the culture of the organization overall. It's not something that happens overnight, but with empathy, collaboration, and patience, it's possible to see meaningful change, on both levels."

Want a flexible, rewarding career? Consider Korn Ferry Interim. 

If you want to design a career on your terms, becoming an interim professional might be right for you. With interim engagements, you have the flexibility to choose when, where, and how much you work. Learn more about interim work or join our interim network