The idea of ‘work-life integration’ is a hot topic at the moment, whether professionals are self-employed or working for a company. It tends to lean towards a more attainable sense of control when it comes to the juggle between personal life, relationships, other commitments and work. As opposed to the concept of ‘work-life balance’ which is a more idealistic goal and not always possible for working parents.
Because of the challenging nature of integrating work and life, it can be tough to see where things are slipping. What we will discuss in this article is how to avoid allowing work to take priority over your personal life as you navigate work-life integration - i.e. ‘work creep’.
Work creep, if not looked at, can negatively impact the work-life integration process by causing issues over time. Since it is a ‘creep’ it is under the radar, and can get out of hand, costing you time, resources and quality of life.
Below we’ll explore some practical steps to avoid work creep and how this can aid in a healthy and productive work-life integration strategy.
Work-life balance vs. integration: what’s the difference?
Work-life balance is focused on separating work and personal life. You leave the house, get to work and then only process home life when you set foot through the front door again. An integration approach combines work and life through flexibility, hybrid work and more contractual work structures.
Balance is when you aim to attain a place of finding the perfect harmony between one thing and another. This can be an elusive (mostly impossible) goal in reality. Integration tends to be more attainable and forgiving, especially for working parents. To blend work and personal responsibilities helps professionals manage mental health, overall wellness and stress a lot better.
In recent articles we are seeing that there is more contentment, a sense of fulfillment and a feeling of being valued because of the flexible nature of work-life integration. When a workforce operates like this they meet job requirements well without the extra cost.
How does work creep influence work-life integration?
Work creep is slow and embedded in small things. Extra tasks thrown in here and there, and processing work for more time in the day than you should be. Before you know it, your capacity is shorter because you haven’t managed your work and capacity. This leads to pressure from all angles, both personally and professionally.
When it comes to work-life integration, work creep can be counterproductive and can steal from attaining proper integration. The following areas may take a knock if there is no intentional work-life management:
Personal wellness and productivity
Mental, emotional and physical health is huge in professional conversation in a post-pandemic global office. Work creep can influence our self-care routines which will in turn influence our ability to function effectively for work.
Boundaries start to creep
When boundaries are not adhered to, whether they are personal or professional, the outcome is stress and anxiety. If you aren’t monitoring your work and how it blends with life then it can easily slip, little by little, and you can end up feeling like a hot mess.
Practical steps to avoid work creep
What’s the solution? Well, it boils down to being intentional about putting in positive guard rails for yourself and your work. Below are some options for you to try:
Set clear boundaries
When you are moving into a more integrated work lifestyle it’s a good idea to be clear on your personal and professional boundaries. Are there red flags you can set up for yourself so you know when to reign it in with different life facets? Can you implement guard rails in your professional and personal life to avoid either one creeping off track? Read our article on setting boundaries when working from home.
Setting clear boundaries will also help you with your time management, which is an essential skill to learn in every area.
Manage expectations ahead of time
They say ‘communication is key’ and it couldn’t be more true when it comes to avoiding the creep. When you sign a contact with your employer it is wise to ensure your work plan is thrashed out and agreed upon ahead of time. This will improve communication and give you a leg to stand on if you sense work is taking over.
NB: Remember, this is not a blame game between you and an employer. Work creeping in where it doesn’t belong is within your control and it’s up to you to manage it well.
Switch off mentally
At the end of the day, when you are with family, or lying in bed about to switch the lights off make sure you are not thinking about work. Switch your ‘work brain’ off when you are not working. This will help you get the mental and creative rest that you need to tackle the next day. It will also help you sleep better because you aren’t going down a thousand rabbit holes when it is time to wind down.
Recruitment with a difference
At RecruitMyMom, we believe in work-life integration as a means to bring out the best in every facet of life, work, relationships and wellness. Flexible, part-time and contractual employment solutions are the answer for many women at work. Register your CV on our Candidate Portal and take a look through our current job openings today.