Let’s face it: Work-life balance is difficult – if not impossible – to attain, at least for any extended period of time. Companies’ efforts to enable flexible work schedules can certainly help, but employees will always struggle to balance work and life as two dynamic ends of a lever. Instead of putting employees in this precarious position, business leaders should encourage work-life integration.
In her blog post on Collective Hub, Vanessa Bennett writes, “When we talk about work/life balance we are automatically suggesting that work is in the ‘non-life’ category. For many people, however, their passion is their work. They enjoy spending time immersed in work because they love what they do and are energized by it. Trying to split themselves into two categories and ‘switch-off’ can in fact cause more stress, and be fundamentally unproductive. For most people, integration can bring a higher level of happiness and productivity than ‘balance’ ever could.”
Who doesn’t want employees who are passionate, energized and productive?
In order to bring work-life integration to your company, you need to (1) find your purpose, (2) hire smart and (3) provide the tools that make it easy for employees to integrate work and life. Let’s take a closer look at each.
#1: Articulate and communicate your purpose
People don’t buy what you make; they buy the why behind it. Smart airlines know they don’t sell plane tickets; they sell family reunions and low-stress business trips. In the same way, employees are motivated and engaged when they work not towards a “what” but a “why.” This should be your company’s purpose, its reason for being in business.
Once articulated, employees must understand their purpose. What role does each department play in achieving that objective? And the individual contributor him/herself? When employees know that they’re contributing to something bigger than themselves, they are more engaged, invested, productive and innovative.
The company’s sense of purpose must be communicated in every way the brand is presented to the world – in every word of copy on the website, every customer conversation, every product on the roadmap. But it must also be expressed through your company culture. This may require giving HR more influence in shaping the workplace culture so that you can ensure it’s aligned with your vision for the company rather than employees’.
#2: Hire smart
Everyone at one time or another takes a job simply for the paycheck or as a steppingstone to something greater. However, if your company wants to encourage work-life integration, you must hire smart. That means staying so true to your purpose and values that you discount candidates who are clearly driven by salary or benefits and short-list those who share your company’s purpose.
We discussed this previously in The Benefits of Hiring for Purpose: “Employees and employers with a shared sense of purpose have a vested interest in working toward the same goal. When this is the case, employees are intrinsically motivated, and tend to be more creative and willing to take risks.”
These are the kinds of employees who want work-life integration, but they are also the ones you can trust with that flexibility because they have a natural desire to see the company succeed.
#3: Give employees the proper tools
Research commissioned by Polycom shows that one of the top business objectives for all organizations is to better enable the workforce through the right tools and technology solutions, allowing employees the flexibility to work from anywhere. The study, conducted by Virgin Media Business, found that nine-out-of-ten individuals who identify as Generation Y cite flexibility in the workplace as a top priority.
The flexibility to work from home – or anywhere else for that matter – is key to enabling work-life integration. This requires a communications tool that ensures productivity and facilitates collaboration regardless of where employees happen to be or what device they happen to be using. Because both productivity and collaboration are optimized when employees are physically together, the tool must also address presence disparity and give employees the feeling that they are working in the same room – even from the other side of the globe. This is a tall order for most collaboration solutions, but not video.
An enterprise-grade video collaboration solution enables employees to hear and see one another at the touch of a button (or finger tap) for both ad hoc one-on-one and scheduled conference calls. Any participant on the call can share content to everyone else so that decisions can be made then and there. Because employees can see each other, they can more easily build the trust that is necessary for creative collaboration.
Polycom’s Cameron Craig has this to say about his experiences using a video collaboration solution: “Many of my colleagues work from home or conduct evening/early morning meetings from home to accommodate time zones. I’ve met several wives, husbands, kids and pets dropping in and out of frames. Rather than being awkward moments, my colleagues have taken the time to introduce their significant others before getting back to the business at hand. I’ve also seen their book collections, CD collections (yes, a few people still have them) and kids’ sporting trophies. In under a month, we’re already sharing jokes and having conversations about the important people and things in their lives. I can’t imagine getting to that level of bonding using audio conferences, even if you were communicating for years.”
Building a successful organization means getting out of the mindset that your workforce must expend time and energy keeping work and life in constant balance. Give employees the flexibility they want by introducing work-life integration. First, articulate and communicate the organization’s “why” to get employees engaged and invested. And, though it can be tempting to focus on job skills, don’t forget those values when bringing new people into the company. As employees integrate their work and personal lives, give them the technology that gives them the benefits of being face-to-face, with the freedom to choose where to get work done.