Remember when work-life balance was the goal of the well-rounded business person? You were told to keep your personal life at home and your business at work. But with the growing use of mobile phones, email and the internet those lines got blurred. The new phrase is work-life integration, which more mirrors reality.
While some might chafe under the cross-contamination, I personally enjoy it as a solopreneur. I see the flexibility to switch between the two segments as a key to autonomy, which is a major component to the optimal motivation spoken of by motivation expert Susan Fowler.
According to Susan, autonomy “is people’s need to perceive that they have choices, that what they are doing is of their own volition, and that they are the source of their own actions.” Obviously, there are people that will view taking business calls outside of work as an attack on their “choice” to disconnect. But to me, the flexibility goes both ways. Sure, you might have to do an after-hours email — but is it worth it to be able to check out early for a family event later? To me, it is.
For over seven years, the ability to create my own schedule, set my own work environment, make my own rules, and succeed . . . or fail . . . by my own careful planning (or lack thereof) was my own. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve certainly been tempted and had suggestions delicately directed my way to get a “real job.” But how do you explain the value of flexibility? And the benefits of autonomy – the ability to have and make actual choices about my work-life integration?
That flexibility allowed me to take my mom to work and doctor appointments, leave in the middle of the day to get to the accident scene of my sister, and sit with my husband when a family emergency brought us to the hospital. Those are occasions when life crashed in on work unannounced — and the flexibility of work made room for it.
Flexibility, autonomy, and work-life integration form the work of the future. Millennials are clamoring for work with meaning — work that places value on the really meaningful things in life, like family and community. Businesses are exploring ways to make work flexible and give more autonomy to employees. Employees are embracing work-life integration as they look at how different work — and even different jobs — enrich their personal lives.
I truly believe this is the direction of the business world. The days of sticking to the 9-5, with a top-down approach to work, is fading fast. The value of autonomy and flexibility in work-life decisions is increasing. With all the ups and downs that come with being a solopreneur, the benefits far outweigh the struggles. After seven years, I truly appreciate, the freedom that a flexible work environment affords me.
Work-life integration doesn’t have to be a negative thing.
I encourage everyone to look for ways to create more flexibility and increase autonomy as this trend increases in the work world. You’ll find it can help achieve more satisfaction in both your work and personal life.