Losing the Plot: The Work-Life Integration Story
What's the Big Idea?
My brother-in-law, a tenured professor at Osgood law school in Toronto, sent me an article yesterday. “This will interest you. Anne-Marie is a rockstar academic!” The rockstar academic wrote of why women still can’t have it all -- an interesting article from a unique vantage point, shared by some and not by others.
No sooner had this article been circulated, than it began to unleashed an expected storm of reactions. Some people were pitting Slaughter against a rock star of the corporate world: Sheryl Sandberg, while others wrote about how men can’t have it all and others are off to prove how they ‘can’ still have it all by defining things for themselves. You can choose which party to attend, depending on your own take on women, careers, and having it all. I am here to frame the discussion in a larger context, the context of work life integration.
The struggle for ‘having it all’ is a big part of almost every working woman’s career. Some of us struggle more than others, whether that's due to the resources available to us or the expectations that others lay at our door step. Sometimes the struggles are made more difficult by our personal definition of having it all. Either way, this struggle faced by women is symptomatic of a larger struggle going on in the corporate world. It is the struggle to break out of archaic models of managing people, their time and their lives.
Corporate cultures demand a relentless level of connectivity and dedication at the expense of all else. The debate on ‘having it all’ is, at its heart, a work-life fit debate. Thus it's important that we move beyond the discussion of ‘who’ has it and ‘how much’ to talking about ‘what’ are the enablers to reach the fit and the balance, whatever that might be for the author of each view point.
What's the Significance?
The more things change the more they remain the same
The boundaries of work and life have broken down but it is our mental models of how work ‘ought’ to be done is what really needs fixing. The demand for work/life integration is high, but the response from organizations is either absent, adhoc, and/or poorly defined. It's also often laden with value judgements about who ‘ought’ to get the benefit of work life policies, and what the use of such a system truly entails. If we want to create organizations and careers where we ‘all’ can have it ‘all’ (whichever way we choose to define it) then we must recognize the following:
A client of mine in Singapore is struggling to help her employer understand that flex work should be allowed so she can be with her child. It's not acceptable to her for a nanny to raise her child. The employer must learn to respect this choice. As research by the Center for Creative Leadership shows, some of us are ‘work firsters’ while others are ‘integrators’ and still others are ‘family firsters’. Of course, we may change preferences as we go through our careers and life. Anne-Marie Slaughter was a work firster when in Washington, then chose to be an integrator. That's fine too. Understanding that your ‘fit’ is not my ‘fit’, and my own definition of fit may not always remain constant, allows for a more open dialogue to take place. This enables ‘made to order’ employment relationships to emerge and thrive.
If Anne-Marie Slaughter had written her article in the 19th century, she may even have been institutionalized for it. Not today. Women and men are trying to redefine the expectations ‘for themselves’ and ‘of themselves’ to create a work- life fit that works. These are important considerations and conversations.
As we discuss and debate the many plot lines that define the story of work life integration, let us always keep the larger picture in mind. While the definition of the struggle and its solution is personal, the larger institutions and policy making must be adapted to make that customized response possible. Till the time that is happens, as Arthur Ashe would say, start where you are, use what you have. Do what you can.
Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.
No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.
A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.
- When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
- Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
- Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
The Harvard psychologist loves reading authors' rules for writing. Here are his own.
- Steven Pinker is many things: linguist, psychologist, optimist, Harvard professor, and author.
- When it comes to writing, he's a student and a teacher.
- Here's are his 13 rules for writing better, more simply, and more clearly.
A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.
- The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
- Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
- Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.