The Great Resignation has led to a Great Re-evaluation about the place of work in our lives. People aren’t just quitting their jobs, they’re rethinking what they want out of life. What people are resigning from is a culture of “workism:”the idea that we’re defined primarilyby our work, and everything else — i.e. life — must fit into the increasingly smallspace that is left. And they are realizing how backwards our thinking about work-life has been.
Yes, work is important. It can give us purpose and meaning. It’s an essential part of a thriving life. But it shouldn’t take the place of life. The time has come to do away with the idea of “work-life” altogether. Language matters.In the years before the pandemic, much of our language about work was taken from warfare — killing it, crushing it, defeating competitors. This helped fuel a perpetual state of fight-or-flight that in turn fueled burnout. It also supported the zero-sum idea of work and life reflected in the myth of “work-life balance.”
The truth is that work and life are on the same side, so they don’t need to be balanced. They rise and fall together — increase your life’s overall well-being and you’ll also be more effective at work. Believing that the two can be balanced, and that when we achieve this balancewe can “have it all,” is a recipe for certain failure. “Work-life integration” is a definite improvement because it’s based on the idea that when we bring our whole selves to work — whether in-person or remote — we don’t have to choose between success in our work and success in other parts of our lives.
Our work and our lives are always integrated, so acknowledging that truth in the way we talk about our lives makes it easier to sustain. That was a step in the right direction, and now we can take it one step furtherwith “life-work integration.”
It’s a way of going back and fixing a fundamental flaw in the code that led to an increasingly unstable operating system, along with more and more crashes. And in response to this collective mindset shift, forward-thinking companies are rethinking their approach to well-being. It’s no longer just a perk or something to be squeezed in as work allows. Life-work integration is about embedding well-being into the workflow itself. It’s about well-being as a set of guiding principles that we can design our day around. It starts with asking ourselves what our non-negotiables are, what are the things in our lives that are critical components of who we are and who we want to be, and that allow us to show up as our best selves.
In a world of life-work integration, we redefine success for ourselves, and work is just one wayto fulfill that definition. As Adam Grant put it in The Wall Street Journal, “For several generations, we’ve organized our lives around our work. Our jobs have determined where we make our homes, when we see our families and what we can squeeze in during our downtime. It might be time to start planning our work around our lives.”
As the Great Resignation shows, millions agree. Life-work integration is a framework on which we can build a way of living and working that allows us to truly thrive.