GONE IS THE NOTION OF BALANCE AS WORKERS INCREASINGLY BLUR THE LINE. By Laura Vanderkam
On a corner of West Philadelphia, the cranes have been busy. The project? A few hundred luxury apartments aimed at professionals working at the nearby University City Science Center.
Increasingly, notes Stephen Tang, president and CEO of this incubator and research park, the professionals running these startups want to work and live in the same space. They think little of a workout at noon and a conference call at 9 p.m.
“I think it’s just life;’ Tang says. If people enjoy what they do, there’s no need to draw strict lines. He’s not the only one thinking this way. Increasingly people are rejecting the notion of “work/life balance” in favor of another phrase: “work/life integration:’ Thanks to smartphones and the growing popularity of working remotely, moving work around on dimensions of time and space is not only possible, but has become the norm. That’s what I found when I completed a time diary study of 1,001 days in the lives of high-earning women and their families. A full 75% of time logs showed something personal during traditional work hours: exercise, school visits. On the flip side, 77% showed work outside the workday norm. Women took calls after their kids went to bed. They wrote reports on weekends.
Eileen Hiromura is a Google product manager. On the Friday of the week she logged for me, her two kids visited her for lunch. She came into work at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday because she took her kids to the dentist. But she still logged full-time hours. She checked email at night and had this odd habit: waking up at 3 a.m. some nights and working for 90 minutes before going back to sleep. She wasn’t sleep-deprived (she logged 56 hours of sleep that week). She just liked that quiet time. While people don’t necessarily want to be on calls at 10 p.m., many parents are willing to make that trade to come home for family dinner. Indeed, the ability to integrate work and life is what allows some people to stay in the workforce. Kristin Thomas has four young children and works 30 to 35 hours a week as the director of employer outreach for Flex.Jobs, a job service specializing in flexible and telecommuting positions. Thomas works from home during the hours that suit her. Without that flexibility, “I wouldn’t be working;’ she says. And increasingly, she says, she is seeing job candidates who are “bold enough to ask about the flexibility offered.”
But why not? For many people the ability to integrate work and life is like asking if a major firm offers health insurance. You assume so, but just want to check that box before the conversation continues. To be sure, while “work/life integration is the reality,” says Cali Yost, founder of Flex + Strategy Group/Work + Life Fit, that doesn’t mean that most employers have coherent plans to deal with it. “All of this integration is very much happening by the seat of our pants.”
Laura Vanderkam is the author of the forthcoming book I Know How She Does It: How Successful
Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015).