It is not often that switching out one word for another makes such a big impact on me, but that has happened. Let me explain… I was asked to write this blog on work-life balance. I’m honestly not the best model for that as President and CEO of DoveLewis, but I do try. And I’ve tried for years to make sure I strike a balance while running a 24/7 business that has not closed in the 12 ½ years I’ve been here. Working from home on Mondays, coming in later on days I work later hours, taking vacations when possible, trying to schedule time to get to most of my kids’ events, etc. But it is hard, not just because of the job I have, but because of the type of person I am.
So, crafting a meaningful blog about work-life balance was going to be a challenge. Then I was told about a woman who came to speak at DoveLewis this month as part of our “self-care” focus for our staff. Megan Leatherman gave a lunchtime talk about her approach to this subject. Of course, I didn’t see her presentation because I was too busy and was working and eating lunch at my desk. And I didn’t think twice about it or feel bad about it. Again, that is who I am.
Then I was told that she believes that thinking of “work-life balance” is the wrong way to look at it – that it is better to think of it as “work-life integration.” Bam! That’s the one word that was changed and impacted the entire way I think of this subject. So I asked for some information about her and started researching her work and philosophy. In basic form, these are her own words:
Work-life integration is a new way of thinking about what has been called “work/life balance”. The term “work/life balance” implies that your work and your life are in competition with one another and, just like your checkbook, need to be balanced. Instead of seeing the two as parts of ourselves that are in conflict with one another, it may be more helpful to understand how our work and our lives can become integrated in a way that is mutually enriching. Work-life integration looks like a synergistic and energizing arrangement where your work, home, community and private self are in conversation with one another.
That’s a concept I can get my head around in a meaningful way. Megan credits a man named Steward Friedman for the concept of those four main areas of our life: work, home, community and private self. I don’t know who he is and I’m not worrying about that right now. What I’m focusing on is that I like to feel I lead an integrated life that makes me happy and hopefully my family happy as well.
Have I always worked a lot more than some other people? Sure, I had to. Do I think about work much more than most people? Probably. It is just who I am. The bottom line is that I feel an immense responsibility to not fail. My home life is separate from work, but my work life gives me and my family so much of what we have to enjoy with our home life. How can I separate those? What I do for work gives us the happiness we can enjoy at home. The more I may succeed at, the more my family may enjoy and thrive. As long as I also integrate enough of what is incredibly important to me - time with my family.
And, I have dozens and dozens of people who work for our company who in many ways depend on me getting my job right! How can I slack off from that responsibility? I don’t want to let them down either. Sometimes (maybe often times) they probably feel like I have let them down or made decisions that let them down. But I know – or at least I feel – that I don’t have to carry that burden because I’m doing things for the greater good – maybe them, their families or their careers. That to me is an integrated self.
It may not appear balanced, but it is integrated, at least to me. And that is how I survive and derive my happiness. That is how I can find happiness in the success of others at the sacrifice of appearances toward me. Leadership can be looked at as a life of service if done correctly. It puts others first. Or at least I feel it should.
So that is why I may not have work-life balance, but I sure have work-life integration. I’m just learning all about these new words or phrases so this is the start of a journey for me. I plan on writing more about it in a meaningful way for all of you too. If you struggle with the concept of work-life balance, maybe switch that one work like I did and take it for a test drive. Maybe it will positively change how you feel.