Successful work and life integration

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BRIAN GOZUN

BRIAN GOZUN

Thursday can either be a boon or a bane depending on the worker. It could simply mean having one more day of work before a much-awaited weekend or could also mean having to suffer another 24 hours of gloom and dread in front of the computer, customers and clients. We always look forward to our weekends or days off in order to refresh and unwind given the stress that work and life has to offer. We always think of enjoying life only when we are not working and our lives stay at the backburner while we work like crazy.

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Believing that work competes with life should not be the case, according to Stewart Friedman, professor at the Wharton School, because “life” in work-life balance should be the “intersection and interaction of four major domains: work, home, community, and the private self.”

In a Harvard Business Review blog, Prof. Friedman talks about what successful work and life integration looks like. He uses the phrase ‘work-and-life integration’ rather than the more common ‘work-life balance’ because the latter represents a binary lifestyle where one has to choose work over life or life over work.

Although being known as the work-life balance guy, he still gets comments that in order to be truly successful in one’s work, one must have major sacrifices in personal and family life. In his book, “Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life,” he focused on well known people such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, First Lady of the United States of America Michelle Obama and “The Boss,” Bruce Springstein, who were all “successful at their work, not despite having a full life outside of it, but precisely because they do.”

At work, most of us would have our own version of Sophie’s choice—that between two unbearable options where no amount of motivation or satisfaction could comfort us. Should we always choose family over work despite the economic repercussions? Should we always choose work over a loved one despite the romantic ramifications? Should we always choose one over the other and feel tired, angry, helpless and hopeless afterward?

What is interesting about the people studied by Prof. Friedman is that not all of them were born into a life of privilege but strived on their own to achieve success in what they have chosen to do. All had their share of disappointment, frustration, doubt and loss.

According to Prof. Friedman, “accomplishment in a career is achievable not at the expense of the rest of your life, but because of commitments at home, in the community, and to your interior life.”

We must all accept that work is important and we must, then, draw back on and give back to our families and communities what we do at work. If we are successful at our work, why can’t we also become successful at home and in our private lives? Too often, we work too hard for our jobs but work less for our families and loved ones. At work, we continuously innovate and improve but, sadly, some of us stagger and linger over improving our relationships with friends, families and loved ones.

There are three principles that Prof. Friedman considers for work and life integration: be real, be whole and be innovative. Being real means clarifying what’s important to you. Being whole means recognizing how various parts of your life affect one another. Being innovative means experimenting with ways on how you can be creative in doing things that are good for you and the people around you. So when I’m asked what successful work-and-life integration is for me, I always give this answer: I am happy when I’m at work and equally happy when I’m not at work.

Brian Gozun, PhD, is associate professor of the Decision Sciences and Innovation Department at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University Manila. He was listening to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams as he wrote this article. He may be reached at brian.gozun@dlsu.edu.ph. (The views expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.)

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