Bye Bye, Work-Life Balance—Welcome, Work-Life Integration!

Are you voluntarily working longer hours and sacrificing your personal life for it? If the answer is yes, then you have no work-life balance

The idea of work-life balance is to achieve a state where the demands of work and career and the demands of our personal lives are of equal priority. Work-life balance acknowledges that our careers influence our personal lives and vice versa — one cannot thrive without the other. Ultimately, by keeping work and life in balance we hope to be less fatigued, more focused, and more productive in all aspects of our lives.  

The shift to a culture of work-life balance has had a number of positive effects: 

  • Health is now recognized as essential for work-life balance. Many employers offer health initiatives, such a fitness or weight loss programs and healthier food choices for employees. 
  • Employees feel empowered to say “no” to projects they feel overwhelms their bandwidth. 
  • Employers conduct engagement surveys to keep tabs on factors that can raise employees’ levels of dissatisfaction.
  • Employees are becoming more mindful of needing to take regular breaks. 
  • Many employers now offer flexible work schedules, which may include flexible hours and/or remote working options.
  • Employees seek coaching to cope with managers, coworkers, and rising workloads.
  • There is an expectation that technology “gets the job done,” meaning that technology addresses daily work challenges and is effective in helping users to achieve goals and objectives, resolve and avoid problems, and make progress in their lives. 

Work-life balance means that work-related meetings are not scheduled outside of regular office hours, not during break times, and not in the afternoon on the last day of any work week. People nowadays also frown upon receiving work emails on weekends. 

The strict separation of work and life, however, can be difficult. Trying to maintain artificial barriers between work and the rest of our lives can cause tension and feelings of guilt when work does intrude on our personal lives and vice versa. Work-life integration refers to the idea of “blending” work and personal responsibilities, eliminating any tensions or feelings of guilt. 

The idea of work-life integration assumes that a person’s professional and personal goals can be aligned so that one is not taking away as much from the other. Work-life integration will particularly become important as more Millennials and Gen Zers control the workforce. 

Post-Covid technological advances in our workflows, enabling remote work at a much larger scale than before, is an initial step towards work-life integration, breaking down barriers between work and personal time. It is acceptable again to let work tasks bleed into free time or even during vacation, while attending to personal matters, such as family obligations or health issues, is allowed to bleed into work time. One can leave work for a few hours to pick up a sick child from school and catch up on work from home later in the day. 

Radiology more than other medical specialties could pioneer work-life integration. There are already existing work models where radiologists are assigned a certain volume of studies that they have to read during a shift, and there can be some flexibility as to when they need to issue final reports. Many radiologists already work entirely or partially from home.

In the current job seekers’ market, everyone will choose the work conditions that are best for them. If you find yourself having trouble hiring folks, it may be worthwhile pondering work-life balance or integration and how it could work for your hiring goals.

Nadja Kadom, MD
Nadja Kadom, MD

Director for Quality, Department of Radiology, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Interim Director for Quality, Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences, Emory Healthcare
Professor, Emory University School of Medicine

The opinions expressed on RadTeams are those of the author(s); they do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or position of the editors, reviewers, or publisher.

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