Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Work-Life Integration

In various seminars and networking events, the topic of work-life balance inevitably emerges.  As successful business leaders share their ideas on how to achieve this phenomenon, it has become clear to me that work-life integration rather than work-life balance has become the workplace norm.  In a recent article in the New York Times Magazine[1], author Susan Dominus highlights innovative companies who are looking to make significant changes in the day-to-day office operations, searching for a genuinely flexible workplace. The article quotes Marcee Harris Schwartz, in charge of flexibility at the national accounting firm BDO U.S.A: ‘‘…when you think of balance, there’s work on one end of the fulcrum and life on the other, and when one is up the other is down — so it’s like a zero-sum game.”

Thus, what surfaces is the integration alternative. Yet, how do you achieve it?

At NextGen, I have learned many things from our millennial staffers. One is that they have no problem with taking calls at home, working from home or texting throughout the day to check on family responsibilities. Our industry is one where people and technology must not only co-exist but are tethered together, almost on life support. This cultural shift that has taken place over the last decade in the workplace demands more flexibility and adaptability. 

It takes more than just policies to make a workplace truly flexible. The
whole office culture has to change.[2]

As a talent engagement firm specializing in IT and Professional Services, we see highly skilled talent who are actively seeking assignments with more flexibility. It has become a highly sought-after incentive because it allows this generation of workers the opportunity to merge their professional lives with their personal interests.

According to an article in Forbes magazine[3], “working from home is also a benefit that millennials, and other workers, are prioritizing over higher salaries because of their desire to integrate their work and life.”  By removing geographic restrictions, companies can benefit from retaining top talent even if their office is seaside and thousands of miles away.

At NextGen, we are expanding and decentralizing our headquarters in order to accommodate our changing workforce and business demands.  We will have staffers who will be working both in the heart of the city and in the county in order to help meet their commuting challenges, as well as accommodate team members who routinely work from home.  It is a concerted effort to meet the changing needs of our individual staff for the betterment of the entire office.  
Today’s business world never stops.  In our global communication network, we have removed many of the restrictions of time and place through the use of constant communications occurring at fractions of a second.  So, in spite of blizzards or heat waves, business goes on and successful companies with engaged employees can relax in knowing that deadlines and goals will still be met with improved and invested communication. 
Our office is a mix of millennials and baby boomers, with people from all walks of life and location working side by side. Flexibility extends to our young families and team members looking for a family-friendly environment, but also to those caring for elderly parents and looking toward retirement. While millennial staffers may need support with professional development, baby boomers may need additional training to keep up with current, cutting- edge trends.  Every company has employees going through major life changes and transitions, but those in pursuit of a successful legacy must be accommodating to retain their talent.
At NextGen, we know that our greatest asset is our people and thus our primary investment.  We know that we must embrace a stronger culture of work-life integration to adapt to the changing business world.  Companies on this track are better positioned to meet the changing workplace climate and to build a more sustainable future. 

Lori Eaton

[1] “Rethinking the Work-Life Equation,” Susan Dominus, New York Times Magazine
[2]  New York times Magazine, February 2016
[3] “Work Life Integration: The New Norm,” Dan Schawbel, Forbes Magazine

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