Forget Work-Life Balance: 4 Work-Life Integration Strategies Around the World
Successful, content women, like the four below:
- Don’t view work as separate from “life,” but instead a part of their lives.
- Don’t try to juggle, or find “balance” between life and work.
- Don’t strive for unrealistic perfection in either sphere.
- Firmly believe that work-life integration is attainable.
- Achieve what they want both at work and at home through their daily actions.
To have an integrated life, you structure and customize your life to make space for both work and the rest of your life’s interests and demands. It isn’t about seeking work-life balance, It’s about work-life integration. It’s not about implementing other people’s values or schedules; it’s about implementing your own.
Here are four approaches I’ve seen work for multiple women around the world. And lest you think that only entrepreneurs can have schedules that work for them, two of these strategies were put in place by corporate women too:
In South Africa, Happy Ralinala, who heads business banking at ABASA/Barclays in South Africa, sits down with her two daughters at the beginning of the year and asks them to pick which of their events they want her to attend. Through a series of negotiations they agree on when their busy mom will be at their school and extracurricular events. Attendance at these events are then firmly scheduled into her work schedule.
In Brazil, Sam Shiraishi, a forty-year old mom of three, entrepreneur, and well-known blogger, decided on a what might be seen as a radical approach, but it has worked well for her and for her clients. Sam brings her daughter Manuela to work and every meeting, every day.
At first, some clients were skeptical at Manuela’s presence; but Sam shared that often, before long, they warmed up and wanted to hold Manuela too.
THE MIDDLE EAST
In Qatar, Reham Thawabi, an executive manager at Commercial Bank of Qatar, told her boss: “Here’s what I can do. I’ll give you a hundred percent from 7:15 am to 5:00 pm every day. My children get my full attention from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm each night. From 9:00 pm to bedtime is reserved for my husband and for me. On a normal, everyday basis, that how it has to be for me to make work fit into my life. If there is an exceptional need in any one of these areas of my life, I will be flexible; and I expect my family and my employer to be flexible as well.”
In India, Parul Mittal, co-founder of RivoKids.com, left her corporate job and became an entrepreneur. Now she sets her own schedule. “I do most of my work from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm while my kids are at school. Evenings are mostly spent with family doing kids’ homework, after-school classes, and playing board games with intermittent work-related emails and phone calls.”
A KEY COMPONENT TO MAKING IT ALL WORK: COMMUNICATION
In addition to developing schedules that work, women with integrated lives – like Parul, Reham, Sam and Happy – communicate more directly at home and work.
- Don’t ask for help. When something needs to be done at home or at work, they don’t ask their staff, peers or husbands or children to “help” them because that makes it seem like they are asking for a favor. Instead, they directly ask the person to do the task because getting it done is not a favor to them but something that needs to be accomplished for the good of the family or their work.
- Don’t apologize about work at home, and don’t apologize about personal or home needs at work. When they have to leave work to take care of personal matters they don’t apologize. Instead, in a matter of fact way, they let their workplace know how work commitments are being addressed. At home, they don’t apologize for having to work late, attend meetings, travel or not being able to attend family events. Instead they talk with pride and enthusiasm about their work and they let their family know that they look forward to hearing about the activity they will miss.
If you want more stories and tips like these, I dedicate an entire chapter to work-life integration in my book UNDETERRED: The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies.