Personal life or work life? Being a good parent or a good professional? Sometimes theories of work-life balance have led us to think of the professional or the personal as two worlds at odds with each other. We all have the image of the scales in our heads: work on one side and everything else (friends, family, hobbies…) on the other.

Traditional work-life balance rhetoric posits this structure of opposing forces.  But Simon Sinek, an influential management and leadership thinker and author, suggests an interesting perspective. Sinek suggests that perhaps we should stop talking about work-life balance and move on to a new approach: integration.

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Work-life balance and the traditional rhetoric of opposing forces

Sofia is a young technology professional who faces the daunting task of balancing her exciting-yet-demanding career with her rich personal life every day. On the one hand, there’s her love for software development, a career that demands constant updating and dedication; on the other, her yearning to spend quality time with her family, her interest in film and her commitment to volunteering. For Sofia, as for so many others, life seems like an eternal juggling act, where work and pleasure are two opposing universes fighting for her time and attention.

For years, the notion of work-life balance has been an ideal pursued by professionals from all walks of life. However, this concept assumes that work and personal life are two separate and often opposing entities, which need to be balanced as if they were two sides of a scale. The problem with this approach is that implies a constant internal struggle, where one always has to sacrifice one side for the other. Simon Sinek proposes a paradigm shift. Instead of seeing work and personal life as two rivals competing for our time and energy, Sinek suggests that we see them as complementary aspects of a full and meaningful life. True harmony, he argues, comes not from keeping these aspects separate and in balance, but from integrating them into a cohesive whole.

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“The traditional notion of work-life balance involves a constant internal struggle, where one always has to sacrifice one part for the other”.


Integration: a more humane approach

Integration involves recognising that we’re whole beings, with desires, needs and obligations that are not confined to the watertight categories of “work” and “personal life”. This approach encourages us to look for ways to bring these aspects together, so that they enrich rather than compete with each other.

For example, flexible working hours can allow employees to spend time on activities that engage them, increasing their well-being and thus their productivity and creativity at work.

Why not play a game of tennis with your friends at lunchtime and then face the report you were supposed to work on in the afternoon with your batteries recharged and in a more positive frame of mind? Why not take advantage of the sunny day to connect to the call you had planned on your smartphone while taking a walk near the office?


“This approach encourages us to look for ways to bring these aspects together, so that they enrich each other rather than compete with each other”.


Similarly, bringing skills and lessons learned in the personal sphere to work can enrich our professional skills and working relationships. Sinek argues that it’s very important for people to have free time to take a walk in a museum, see a play or have a rewarding conversation with friends. Anything that pleases us and can awaken new ideas in our brains. Activities that enrich us and from which, in the end, our professional life is also nourished in some way.

Integration requires change at both the individual and organisational levels. At the personal level, it involves deep reflection on our priorities and the way we structure our time and energy. At the organisational level, it demands empathetic leadership that recognises the importance of employees’ well-being and personal development.

Companies can promote inclusiveness by creating spaces for concentration or relaxation and socialising, and by fostering a culture that values personal as well as professional development. On the other hand, individuals can look for ways to align their passions and skills with their work, set healthy boundaries and practice open communication with their employers about their needs and expectations.

figuritas de madera domino

Simon Sinek’s proposal to replace the concept of work-life balance with that of integration opens a path towards a more harmonious and fulfilling work and personal life. By embracing integration, we can overcome the false dichotomy between work and personal life, and move towards an existence where each aspect of our lives enriches the other. Integration, far from being an unattainable ideal, is a daily practice that invites us to seek balance not outside, but within ourselves, integrating our many facets into a coherent and fulfilling whole.