work life integration

Work-life Integration vs Separation: How to Find the Perfect Middle Ground

Many aspects of modern life and the hustle and bustle that is 21st century life have all led to a more fast-paced work life for many. Today, it is often thought that the person who can work the hardest, fastest, and the longest hours is the most successful one. This is not necessarily the case, though, and too much focus on work for any individual can actually be detrimental.

According to Forbes, being a workaholic is a very specific thing. They interviewed Psychotherapist Bryan Robinson, who is also a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and author of the book Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them. He said:

“Workaholism isn’t simply defined by working long hours. True workaholism is the inability to turn off thoughts of work. A workaholic is someone on the ski slopes who is dreaming about being back in the office. A healthy worker is in the office dreaming about being on the ski slopes.”

According to Robinson, though becoming a workaholic is something that the individual has total and complete control over, his or her place of employment does make a difference, and this is where work-life integration and separation come into play. Some businesses and companies make it a point to make it very difficult for those who work there to become addicted to their work. Others make it pretty easy to work long hours and become very embroiled in their work, and some others in fact almost press it upon their employees.

When you try to address a potential bout of workaholism, it’s important to weigh in a fair amount of personal accountability. There were a lot of decisions and changes in your life that you probably made to put yourself in a position where you felt you were addicted to your work. However, there might be a certain amount of accountability that rests on the shoulders of your employer too.

Just as much as individual workers need to find the perfect balance of integration and separation into and from work, so do companies themselves need to find a perfect balance in how they work their employees. The companies with the perfect balances tend to be the most successful, and the individuals who also find the best balance themselves tend to be the happiest.

Several Businesses that Offer Excellent Work-Life Integration and How They Do It

In an effort to promote work environments that offer the most ideal mix of integration and separation, some companies have worked hard to create environments that are employee-focused. These companies actually encourage work-life balance by offering things such as childcare services, office “quiet” spaces, flexible schedules, volunteer opportunities, and more. Keep in mind that you can take total control and responsibility for your career and find perfect integration and separation with whatever company you work for, but it helps to work for a stellar company (like the ones listed below) that does so in the first place:

  • Colgate-Palmolive now tops Indeed’s list of the 25 best big companies for work-life balance and for creating perfect integration and separation. Founded in the year 1806, the New York-based consumer products giant currently employs more than 35,000 workers. Past and present employees comment on the Colgate-Palmolive employer review page, noting that management sets realistic expectations for employees, promotes time management skills and clearly communicates. In addition to that, Colgate-Palmolive offers some great benefits, such as flexible work hours for their employees, telecommute options, and nearby back-up childcare centers, which is a nice perk for work-at-home parents.
  • Wegmans is another company that really excels in this area. Wegmans is a major regional supermarket chain and one of the largest private companies in the U.S. This company ranks second on the list of the best big companies for work-life balance and integration. Wegmans has a reputation for working very smoothly with part-time employees who are still students to create flexible schedules for them all. The typical workday is fun and energetic for everyone, and employees develop great relationships with one another, which supports the overall feeling of family within the company. 
  • Coldwell Banker, founded as it was in San Francisco in the year 1906, now currently employs a full 82,000 agents worldwide. Employees have characterized the company environment there as having a “work-hard-play-hard” type of attitude for all involved. For those people who are self-starters and independent workers, this is a great company to be employed with.
  • Other companies like Walt Disney are recognized nationwide for their focus on training and team building, as well as the happiness of their employees. Some companies like Google are known for promoting flexible schedules and personal and professional balance for all, where employees learn how to manage their time, multitask, and collaborate with each other.

America is a land of incentive. For many of us, the way to succeed seems to be to work more. In the last decade or so we, as a society, have noticed that imbalance within our lives can be quite detrimental. If you’ve noticed this within yourself then it is perhaps time to reassess and reevaluate your current schedule. Maybe it’s time to try and realign work integration and separation so that a perfect balance exists.

Sean Morris is a former social worker turned stay-at-home dad. He knows what it’s like to juggle family and career. He did it for years until deciding to become a stay-at-home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he has found this additional time with his kids to be the most rewarding experience of his life. He began writing for to share his experiences and to help guide anyone struggling to find the best path for their life, career, and/or family.


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