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A Note of Caution on Work-Life Integration

Six problems to be aware of and how to overcome them

Work-life integration is great, right? It allows you to merge your life into your workday and vice versa. While technology makes a lot of incredible things possible, like maintaining flexibility, working remotely, and being omnipresent, it also introduces new problems you need to watch out for. Below, you’ll find some potential issues you might encounter with work-life integration and ways you can create harmony between your personal and professional lives.

Problem: Stress

One study found that technology is essentially taking over our lives, and 30% of survey respondents said they saw a decrease in personal time since technology made them available for work 24/7. This constant availability can be stressful. In fact, another study reported that one-third of its 1,000-plus participants felt stressed and dissatisfied in life because of ubiquitous technology.

Solution: Get in Control

The latter study found that people who felt in control of their technology were less stressed—so get in control of yours. At the end of the day, you’re responsible for how many times you look at your phone, respond to emails, and work at home after hours. Your technology doesn’t control you, and once you realize that, you’ll be able to relax a bit more.

Problem: Technology Addiction

We’re all guilty of it: whenever we have one free moment—even when we’re doing something else—we check our phones. As of March 2017, according to Flurry Analytics, people spend an average five hours per day on their phones—up 69% from previous years—and that’s not good for our mental health. One researcher found that being apart from your phone actually causes the brain to release cortisol, an anxiety hormone produced when your body experiences the fight or flight response.

Solution: Turn It Off

To determine if you have an unhealthy relationship with your technology, track your screen time and be aware how many times you reach for your phone, tablet, or laptop. If you notice that reaching for your device has become a habit or an instant reaction, try turning it off and having some tech-free time each day.

Problem: Personal Relationship Issues

This is no news, but technology is changing personal relationships—and often not for the better. In one family studies report, 62% of women said technology prevents spending time with their partner, and 35% revealed their partner uses a phone while having a conversation with them. In friendships and romantic relationships, technology addiction and unhealthy work-life integration can lead to serious problems.

Solution: Put It Down

If you were in the middle of a conversation with your significant other, would you cut them off to start talking to someone across the room? No, that’s rude. The same goes with your phone. When you’re spending time with someone, pay attention to them. Your phone is a constant interruption and should be ignored to maintain respect and happiness in a relationship. Leave your phone in the other room, silence notifications, and practice a bit of self-control so the friend or partner you’re with doesn’t feel ignored or unimportant.

Problem: Overtime

The legal case of overtime concerning working off-site on your phone is still a bit murky. However, Americans who practice work-life integration are more likely to take their work home with them—something that may result in many more hours worked annually without compensation.

Solution: Say No or Ask for Additional Compensation

It’s not always easy to ask for a raise or say no to work that’s beyond your job description, but it’s necessary if you find yourself regularly working more than 40 hours per week. Have a discussion with your boss, and explain the company demands and your role in helping them accomplish tasks. If your time and work-life balance aren’t respected and you aren’t being compensated for the amount of work you do outside of regular work hours, then it might be time to consider a new job.

Problem: Boundary Crossing

Having technology and limitless communication at our fingertips means we need to create boundaries for healthy correspondence. It’s clear maintaining boundaries is a problem since, according to one study, 52% of people said they check work email when they’re on vacation. But that statistic is so high because many of these individuals feel obligated to check work messages outside of work hours. This issue is almost certainly the result of unclear boundary definitions. Your manager would never knock on your door at 3:00 a.m., so why would you engage in a work conversation over email at a similar time?

Solution: Set Rules

It might be hard, but between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. (or whatever time you decide is best for you) and especially on vacation, shut off your notifications for work calls, emails, and texts. While it’s not illegal for companies to not offer vacation time, your employer should respect your time off from work if your contract states you’re entitled to this break. Devaluing the work-life balance hinders employee happiness and will leave you feeling tired and burned out long-term. Before you go on vacation, tell everyone you’re unplugging and will respond when you return. Also let them know when you will respond to emails and what infringes on your personal space. It’s key to set these rules about boundaries and stick to them so you get the break you deserve.

Problem: Too Much Information (TMI)

Merging your work and personal lives means that a lot of your social followers are also your co-workers. Do you grimace when you see a way-too-personal post of theirs? Does it change your perspective on them? Then don’t post the same kind of content on your profiles.

Solution: Post Responsibly

Social media needs to be a bit more like a professional networking platform. Brand and display yourself the way you would when you see your employer in person. Save intimate or personal posts for your friends and family on a private account, like your personal Instagram profile. If anyone at work asks why you won’t accept their follow requests, be honest about why you want to keep your account private. It’s okay to have something just for the eyes and ears of your inner social circle.

With the good always comes the bad. While work-life integration allows you to be more flexible in how, where, and when you work, it opens you up to becoming a 24/7, on-demand employee. It’s important to keep the upsides and downsides in mind when managing your work-life integration, so remember these potential problems and solutions whenever you’re working in this ever-changing modern world.

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