Since I wrote my book, ‘INTEGRATE’, in 2016, the term ‘work-life integration’ has all but replaced the older concept of ‘work-life balance’. The subtitle of my book is ‘why work life balance is a myth and what you really need to create a fulfilling lifestyle’. The 21st century workplace is so connected – globally and technologically that we are often working after hours at home, on weekends and for many, even on vacation. My book outlines a process to integrate work with all that is precious in your life.
As we have all proven during Covid19 lockdowns, the positive side is that we can work from home or work from anywhere. We can include an activity with a child, or a breakfast with our partner in our day, and still get our work done. Often, we are working into the night but the trade-off with doing personal stuff with people we care about during the ‘workday’ is deemed to be worth it.
WARNING – DANGER AHEAD
The problem with this concept of ‘work-life integration’ is that it means that many people NEVER let down from work. They may stop and play a game with a child, or walk the dog, but as they do those things they are thinking about work that needs to be done, problems that need solving.
Always ‘being on’ or in ‘work mode’ has all kinds of dangers associated with it. We are not machines. Cars get serviced and are not being driven all the time. Many people always have a huge pile of work on their desk or in their inbox. It is relentless. And some people do not have good habits that enable them to totally disengage regularly from this work. The impact over time on personal ‘wellness’ is and will be devastating for many. Already, pre-Covid19 the rise in IP claims for ‘psychological injuries’ (stress related, depression, anxiety) had reached the same level as claims for ‘physical injuries.’ (TAL 2018). My concern is that there is a tsunami of burnout building among high achieving people who are not realising yet their need to do something to protect themselves.
Taking a break helps a little
My wife and I take regular breaks from our businesses. We have a day off each week, a long weekend each month, and a week off each quarter. We have been doing this for almost 10 years and it is a great way to ensure we always have energy. However, we often used to use this time off to do some business planning or to write a book or to read some business books or complete a course. The fact we were in a beautiful location near a beach made it feel like a holiday.
However, In 2019 we took a month off in August/September and travelled to Europe. We deliberately prepared our businesses, so we had no contact with clients and made it clear we would not answer emails. After 3 days I stopped reading emails. For almost 4 weeks we totally disengaged from work. We did not realise how much we needed the complete break. We came back with such clear minds. Our capacity was hugely increased. Our souls were refreshed. Our emotional capacity and our clarity of focus were greatly enhanced.
Totally dis-engaging from work regularly helps a lot
Since returning from Europe, we have maintained our structure of regular breaks. What we are doing differently is making sure we totally disengage from work on those breaks. During lockdown we have been working on a range of garden projects on our days off each week. We have been reading a lot more novels. My wife has rediscovered her love of crochet. I am playing more golf and will turn out in sixth grade again this cricket season. Once allowed, we travelled down to Jervis Bay for a week in July and have just come back from a week in Byron Bay. The discipline of totally disengaging from work in these times has been so good for our wellbeing.
A call to ALL high achievers
I know from the business and corporate clients I mentor, how challenging it is to switch off from work. It is a new skill my wife and I are learning all over again. If we do not learn this skill and apply this discipline, my fear is that many will be worn down by the relentless challenges of work. My call to all who will listen is to be willing to find some things you enjoy that you can do regularly that will help you to totally disengage from work. Make it a goal for 2021 to learn to switch off from work, and to practice that discipline Weekly. Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly in ways that refresh your body, mind and soul.
Your future self will thank you.