Work/Life Integration: Two Lessons for the Cross-Cultural Workforce
Work/Life balance. Countless books have been written about the subject, and I’ve attended countless workshops whose aim was to help me achieve that goal. I hear the phrase across corporate wellness programs and in networking circles. But what does it mean?
The definitions of work/life balance abound. I’ve heard everything from “the proper prioritization of leisure and work activities” to “daily achievement and enjoyment in all areas of life.” I, however, never cared for the phrase. The word “balance” always conjured up an image of precariousness in my mind. I pictured trying to hold ten cups steady on ten saucers, where the slightest breeze could blow them all down.
I’m sure that other people have different interpretations of the phrase, but until recently I preferred the phrase “work/life integration.” Let me give you an example. As many of you know, I am a serious hobby musician playing in two rock bands here in Atlanta. I am also a speaker and facilitator as a living. These two aspects of my life, while they had commonalities, used to remain separate. I would work, then I would come home and play guitar or go support a local band. Music was my outlet.
Over the last six months or so, something wonderful has happened. As I brought more of my musical life into my presentations with metaphors, analogies, and photos, my clients began to take notice. They started to hire my bands to play corporate events, and the results were beyond my wildest dreams. One of my bands, Overtime Crew, recently played at a teambuilding retreat, and the crowd never sat down. They danced and cheered all evening as we played!
Music has provided a bridge by which those two worlds (rock band and corporate life) could be connected. But I have recently discovered something even more meaningful: Each world, through touching the other, has become stronger and more enriched. As music and speaking intersect and weave together, the whole tapestry becomes more colorful, more durable, more authentic.
I’m not just seeing work/life integration; I’m seeing work/life uplifting!
As I reflected on this, I saw two lessons emerge from work/life uplifting that apply to the cross-cultural workforce.
Lesson 1: The ideal global team or diverse workforce is one where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Diversity in the workplace is not just something to tolerate, manage, or cope with. It is not even just something to respect. Differences, while challenging, have a great potential for mutual uplift. Through working with people who are different from you, you have the ability to widen your repertoire of communication, problem solving, and business approach. Through that expansion, your project, team, and organization are lifted up.
Lesson 2: While I have been delighted with my work/life uplifting philosophy, I recognize that it is culturally influenced. Different cultures have varying degrees of separation between work and personal life. None of these are better than the others, but simply influenced by the values, geography, history, and behaviors of each culture. As I play in the landscape of work/life uplift, I will attempt to remain aware of other systems I can learn from.
How do you view work/life balance? We look forward to hearing from you.