By Maire Crosse, Staff Writer
During the 20th century, a now all too familiar concept started emerging. A goal to aspire to, the key to a happy and successful life: the work-life balance. With a sharp rise in what we call workaholics and stress-related diseases, and vast generational changes, the importance of understanding the relationship we have to life and work is paramount.
Work-Life Integration – A History
Work-life balance first was used as a term during the World Wars when the necessity of integrating women into the workforce became evident. In peacetime, they would never return fully to their traditional role in the home. As a result of this shift, the term ‘work-life balance’ was introduced in the 1960s and 70s to describe the harmony between personal life and work life. Essentially, the concept maintains that, in order to achieve happiness, the two central areas of one’s life should remain separate.
The conflicting ideals of women to have large families yet work the same hours as men led to women expressing the need for assistance in balancing these tasks. The ideal state of work-life balance, implied achieving success in both areas. The 1980s brought laws in Western societies that supported working mothers. In the 1990s interest surrounding the work-life balance concept peaked. It was integrated into corporate culture, and human resource policies slowly shifted accordingly. The basic and rather simple premise was that work-life balance was achievable through working 40 hour weeks and then enjoying a disconnected weekend. It was a luxury only briefly enjoyed and came to a swift end with the start of exponential technological progress.
The fast development in new technologies over the past decades, yet again shifted the definition of the relationship between work and life. The move from work-life balance towards work-life integration began. Thus, the new millennium caused a non-reversible shift in the quest for balance, from keeping personal and work separate, to the increasing inability to escape from either. The phrase work-life integration, as opposed to its predecessor, focuses on embracing the overlapping of career and private life, to allow for a blend of the professional and the personal which would make both prosper. This may have been the case to begin with; however, the 21st century has seen spikes in work-related stress that gives cause to doubt this assumption.