7 tips to successful work-life integration: A blended way to success

We've previously discussed the idea of transitioning from a work-life balance mindset to a work-life integration mindset. Here's how to get started.


You’re juggling it all: your small business, kids, home projects, social obligations… and you can forget about “me time.” If even just thinking about how to balance everything gives you anxiety, you’re not alone. In fact, 60% of Americans encounter difficulties in maintaining a balance between their work and personal lives.

With the rise of technology, many business cultures and job prospects have changed. The outcome: an opportunity for a more integrated blending of your work and personal lives.

It may seem like the goal should be work-life balance, but it’s actually work-life integration. Instead of struggling to determine a balance between life and work, work-life integration involves discovering ways to continuously flux them instead.

>> RELATED: Shifting your mindset from work-life balance toward work-life integration

As discussed in the Harvard Business Review, inter-mixing home activities, community circle, and personal well-being with your work life can lead to greater contentment and success.

Getting to work-life integration

Everyone has different goals for their personal and professional lives; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. While work-life integration is an overall strategy, it can take on different forms for each individual. It just depends on where you are in life’s stages, what kind of person you are and what you need out of life.

So, how do you get there? Here are seven ways to help achieve work-life integration:

1. Fuse your responsibilities: Create a list of the responsibilities in your life that are most important to you and how you would prefer to spend your time. Take a look at that list and then brainstorm small changes you can make to blend your responsibilities. Schedule work calls while you’re driving your kids around, read over work documents while waiting at appointments or invite your family to accompany you on a work trip. Instead of weighing one part of your life against the other, try to come up with ways to overlap your responsibilities. You will feel like a more complete (and probably less stressed, happier) version of yourself. 

2. Commit to productivity: Measuring productivity by the number of hours put in rather than outcomes achieved is a flawed approach. Focus on the value you create rather than increasing the number of hours you clock in. Utilize the time of day that you are most productive – whether you work better early in the morning or late at night. And, take advantage of technology that allows you to complete tasks more conveniently. The more committed you are to using the proper resources, the more satisfied you'll be at home and in the office.

3. Excel in the art of time management: You cannot achieve work-life integration without excellent time management skills. This includes building a routine that fits with your lifestyle, effectively prioritizing tasks, committing an appropriate amount of time to each task and delegating when necessary. While effective multitasking is another good time management skill, be sure to only integrate work with personal tasks when it makes sense to do so. The “give and take” status that’s inherent to work-life integration should occur without any notable sacrifice on either side. 

>> RELATED: 10 tips to improving work and family balance at your small business

4. Prioritize passion and purpose: To achieve an effective work-life integration, you must love your work. And, part of loving your work is knowing you are achieving what you’ve set out to do. Set specific goals for yourself both professionally and personally and identify a timeline and tactics to accompany each goal. When you are passionate about what you do and are consistently working with a purpose, work-life integration flows more naturally.

5. Take advantage of your ideal work environment: Everybody has a different way in which they work best. Does working from home make it easier for you to focus? Are you more productive when you’re working face-to-face with your team? Try your best to embrace your preference as much as possible. The more you're able to work in your preferred environment, the more productive you’ll become across all aspects of your life.

6. Align your expectations and transform your thinking: We tend to have high expectations when it comes to what we can accomplish and how quickly. Be realistic and patient with yourself. You are one person – and “business owner” is just one of the hats you’re tasked with wearing every day. By transforming your thinking away from “balance” – where you struggle to maintain that perfect position – and focusing more on “integration,” you allow yourself to live a more flexible, less overwhelming life. 

7. Don’t let guilt and burnout hijack your life: The feeling of guilt has no place in work-life integration. Feeling guilty about not working inevitably leads to burnout. Despite 67% of Americans feeling like they need more time for themselves, one-third feel guilty about it. Industry experts suggest you drop the notion that you're expected to be working at all times.

Successful work-life integration plays a vital role in our overall wellness, mental health, work productivity, social engagement and career achievements.

Over to you!

Constantly treading between your work and personal lives can be overwhelming. Being pulled in both directions while trying to remain balanced can feel like a struggle to keep your head above water. Instead, focus more on integrating your work responsibilities with your personal life. When you stop seeing it as a trade off, and more of a harmonious coexistence, you’re sure to achieve higher productivity and find greater enjoyment in all aspects of your life. 

Anita Murphy is founder and CEO of Onebridge Center, which is focused on empowering individuals to achieve what’s possible. The center provides skills training through both job readiness training to assist individuals in breaking barriers to employment and corporate training for companies and organizations looking to upskill their workforce. If your company would like to have a discussion about your training needs, please contact Anita at (330) 267-7556 or drop her a line at anita@onebridgecenter.com.


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  • Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

    Download the presentation as a PDF here.

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  • Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

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  • Next up: 9 Smart Money Ideas to Get Your Business Off to a Great Start in 2018

    9 Smart Money Ideas to Get Your Business Off to a Great Start in 2018

    From consolidating debt to putting a succession plan in place, here are nine ways you can ensure your business is well-positioned for 2018.

    Smart companies realize three things:

    No. 1: The importance of making their balance sheets healthy.

    No. 2: How to access the extremely low cost of available capital.

    No. 3: Recognizing the demand in our economy is rising at a healthy 3% growth. 

    All three of these realizations will help your company to maintain or expand market share.  

    Now is a good time to review, correct and forecast your financial strategies to better leverage your firm for growth. This year-end review and forecast is important, due in part, to the changes underway on Capitol Hill and new federal policies on finance and regulations. The federal changes will have impact on most all businesses, no matter the size.

    Here are nine ideas that could help your 2018 get off to a roaring start.

    Idea No. 1: Taxes. The Big Elephant in the room. Contact your accounting firm to ensure you are taking full advantage of all your options to reduce taxes based on the new federal tax laws currently underway in Congress.  This also applies to your personal taxes.

    Idea No. 2: Investments. For most, this has been a robust year in the investment arena.  Review with your investment advisor your yearend picture to determine if there is a need to make any changes to better reflect your risk in the market on both the company and personal investment side. The deadline for your investment changes is Dec. 31.

    Idea No. 3: Insurance. Look over all company and personal insurance policies to ensure your assets are fully covered. These policies could include:

    • general liability insurance
    • professional liability insurance
    • business owner’s policy
    • directors and officers insurance
    • data breach
    •  property insurance
    • commercial auto insurance
    • worker’s compensation
    • homeowner’s insurance
    • renter’s insurance
    • life insurance
    • personal automobile insurance.

    Idea No. 4: Debt consolidation. Interest rates have been at historically low rates. Look at all outstanding loans, consider consolidating outstanding notes for a better rate. Credit cards continue to offer great rates for as low as 0% until 2019 when you consolidate debt from other credit card companies. Make sure you understand the fine print. Analysts forecast the Fed rate will increase before year end, and again slightly in the new year, however, will remain low in 2018, following retiring Janet Yellen’s past performance.

    Idea No. 5: New capital acquisition. Growing companies require more working capital for operations, inventory and equipment.  It takes money to make money. While conventional banks have kept interest rates attractively low, overall 12-month business loan growth is at the lowest since 2013. But they are still lending. Consider reviewing alternative financial options including interviewing potential private equity or venture capital partners, joint ventures/alliances with compatible companies that compliments your business strategy, large corporate sponsorship or grant funding,  public/private government sponsored funding. The beauty of preparing your 2018 business plan and forecast, is that you will be able to strategically see where and when you need funding. When you do sit down to negotiate new financing, most capital sources will ask to review many of the items listed here. Know where your realistic capital options are, including the requirements to secure the capital, before you need it.

    Idea No. 6: Leases. Capital spending on equipment leasing in the first three quarters of this year has risen at 7.3% annual rate, fastest in the past three years. Instead of outright purchasing equipment—whether a $5,000 video-conference system or a $500,000 injection molding machine—seriously consider leasing rather than tying up this capital that could be better used elsewhere. Additional leasing benefits include $1 buyouts at the end of the lease and the ability to upgrade equipment during the term of the lease to take advantage of newer technology platforms.  The trend today is for  larger equipment to have  built-in computer and artificial intelligence.

    Idea No. 7: Owner draws and distributions. Review with your CPA how your firm is paying out draws and/or distributions and how this impacts your overall tax picture.  The difference between a draw and a distribution is significant for tax reporting purposes. A sole proprietor or single-member LLC can draw money out of the business—this is called a draw. It is an accounting transaction, and it doesn't show up on the owner's tax return. A distribution or distributive share, on the other hand, must be recorded (using Schedule K-1) and it shows up on the owner's tax return. Further, depending on your tax bracket and forecasted 2018 compensation, determine if it would be better to take money out in 2017 or 2018. 

    Idea No. 8: Succession plan. Discuss and review any needed business succession planning updates. During the year were there retirement events, disability or death of an owner or other foreseeable events affecting the company? Review age of the owner(s) and family stage, business stage, size of the business, direction of the business and future leadership. Ensure that succession viability, retirement exit strategy, transition strategy in place.  In the event of death or disability of an owner, take into consideration tax planning, family law considerations, shareholder’s agreements and determining the selection a successor and future management to liquidation of assets or sale of business.

    Idea No. 9: Estate plan. Review and update your will to reflect current situation. Consider a trust if you have property and you don’t wish to have your survivors to go through the sometimes long and arduous task of going thru probate court.  Review and update health care directives, financial powers of attorney, beneficiary forms, protect your children’s property, estate taxes, funeral arrangements and expenses. Store your documents with your attorney-in-fact and/or your executor, the person you choose in your will to administer your property after you die. You will sleep better knowing your wishes are in place.

    Marsha L. Powers, a finance and strategic development professional, author, entrepreneur and investor is the founder of Powers Advisors and Shale Capital Resources. She has been a contributing writer on Finance for Crain’s Cleveland Business for nine years. Her management consulting areas of expertise includes finance – ranging from senior debt, government finance programs to private equity, market strategy, operations, marketing communications and economic development.  She’s a recognized award-winning leader with proven strategic direction and leadership to over 1500 companies, from early stage to Fortune 50 companies. You can reach Marsha at (216)965-3633, marsha@powersadvisors.com and www.powersadvisors.com to learn more about how she can help your company succeed.

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  • Next up: A mental health check-in: Creating a strong workplace environment

    A mental health check-in: Creating a strong workplace environment

    An important step in strengthening your team and your business is to assess the mental health wellness in your workplace. Follow these tips for a safe and welcoming working environment.


    One of the biggest challenges my clients are facing right now is retaining and hiring employees. What they are also facing is burnout among those employees they have to help them meet the demand, which can result in more turnover. You have seen “help wanted” signs everywhere, pleas for people to be patient and courteous. It feels like we are asking more now of our team than we have ever asked. I know that as a business owner you don’t just care about the business—you care about the people who make it happen.

    According to a report conducted by Mental Health America (MHA), many employees across the globe are experiencing increased mental health challenges.

    Check out these three mental health workplace stats:

    9 in 10 employees report that their workplace stress affects their mental health
    3 in 5 employees are not receiving adequate support from supervisors to help manage stress 
    4 in 5 employees feel emotionally drained from their work—an early sign of burnout

    Here is a real shocker: Companies with 50 employees or fewer had the unhealthiest average supervisor support and mental health scores.

    My mentor John Maxwell said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It is in how you treat people and how they feel cared for that ultimately will make the difference in any organization.  

    Do you want to know how your employees are feeling right now? Simple...ask them! Ask the question, “How are you?” and when they say “Fine,” don’t stop there. Ask more open-ended questions. What is going well for you right now? What would you need to be able to do your job better? What is one thing you would do for the team right now if you were me?

    Your employees are an invaluable source of information and ideas, and they can help you when you really partner with them and ask. It sounds simple but this is not a common practice—unfortunately. If you are not comfortable doing this, ask someone externally to talk to your team and find out how they are doing; sometimes they share more and it allows them to share freely without judgement. I love doing this for teams and find that when you ask the right questions and listen—really listen to what is being said—the answer is consistent across the team and typically easy to implement. 

    If your team is burnt out, they need to be heard. The solution won’t always be the same for everyone but there is so much power in just being heard. It shows you care, you want to know what you can do and that they are important to you.


    One of the easiest ways to get feedback and find out how you can really help your team and grow your business is asking them to answer these three simple questions:  

    1. What should we start doing that will help you, the business and/or the customer?
    2. What should we stop doing that will help you, the business and/or the customer?
    3. What should we continue doing that will help you, the business and/or the customer?

    If you haven’t asked for this type of feedback before, you may hear crickets because they may not trust you enough to share this—or they need to think about the answer. One of the most important things you can do when you ask these questions is listen (or really, shut up and listen!) without interrupting or asking for more clarity (there is always time for that later). Listening without waiting for your turn to speak or judging or saying, “We tried that and it didn’t work.”

    Have you heard the phrase, “Put on your own oxygen mask first?” Start with your leadership team. What are they thinking and feeling? If they are burned out as well, they can’t support the team. How are you developing them, preparing them to really lead in a way that empowers the team and helping to support their employees and address challenges early? I will write more about that in the future!

    Finally, here are some things you can do right now to provide a safe and welcoming environment for employees: 

    • Train supervisors to feel comfortable providing emotional support.
    • Encourage employees to talk to their supervisors about changing job stressors.
    • Encourage supervisors to check-in with employees regularly.
    • Provide proper recognition to employees for their efforts.

    Caring doesn’t cost you anything, but the payback is priceless!

    Jill Windelspecht is the founder of Talent Specialists Consulting. She can be reached via email at jillwindel@talentspecialists.com or LinkedIn

    Jill founded Talent Specialists Consulting so that she could invest in serving leaders so that great teams thrive. As a leadership coach she equips individuals with the tools to build their most effective, authentic leadership style. Jill’s amazing clients describe her as passionate, practical and committed to their success. Hundreds of leaders have used the mindset, skillset & actionset approach to build the careers and teams they deserve. Leaders using all their intelligence create a coaching culture in organizations that drives employee engagement, high performance, and better business results. Prior to founding Talent Specialists Consulting, Jill travelled the globe providing leadership developing programs for Eaton Corporation and led talent development and leadership training from the executive level to the shop floor. As a Certified Coach with an emphasis in emotional intelligence and neuroscience, Jill is sought after for executive coaching, workshops, organization consulting, and speaking. 

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  • Next up: Active Shooter Planning: 9 Things You Must Include in Your Emergency Action Plan

    Active Shooter Planning: 9 Things You Must Include in Your Emergency Action Plan

    It’s everyone’s worst nightmare and something we never expect will actually happen in our own places of business. But understanding the warning signs and having an effective plan in place should an emergency like this arise, can help reduce fears and prepare your workforce as much as possible.

    Every business, no matter the size or type, is a potential target for an active shooter. It can happen anywhere including malls, businesses, movie theaters, schools and places of worship. As a business owner or manager, you should have a thorough understanding of the warning signs, preparations that need to be taken, and a plan for actions and responses in the event you are ever confronted by an active shooter.

    The FBI conducted a study of active shooter incidents that occurred from the years 2000-2013. In order for the incident to be classified as an active shooter incident, there had to be four or more deaths or people who were injured from that incident. Within the13-year study, an average of 11.4 incidents occurred annually. During the first seven years of the study, there was an average of 6.4 incidents and it increased to an average of 16.4 over the last seven years of the study.

    According to the FBI, 2014 and 2015 each saw 20 active shooter incidents. That’s more than any two-year average in the past 16 years, and nearly six times as many as the period between 2000 and 2001. Seventy percent of incidents occurred in either a commerce/business or educational environment. And 60% of these incidents ended prior to police arriving. That means you must know what to do in the event you are confronted by an active shooter incident at your business.

    Be knowledgeable and prepared

    Understanding an active shooter is a good starting point. An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area. Often, they use fir­­­­earms and there may be no pattern or method to their selection of victims. 

    An active shooter looks for ease of movement that allows them to just walk into a business. This means a retail store, movie theater or any other business that has open public access is a prime target for them. The reason for this is that they can enter the building without having to go through security checkpoints. So, while your business may need to maintain open access there are actions you can take to prevent shootings and to know how to properly respond in the event of a shooting.

    It is also important to understand that an active shooter can be either an employee or someone off the street. While you have no influence on a stranger, it is easier to deter an employee shooter because they have contact with co-workers and managers on a daily basis. There is a personal relationship that may work in your favor. Keep in mind that active shooters may be motivated by external circumstances such as marital issues, custody issues or financial issues, as well as by workplace issues.

    Shooting events are not spontaneous…they require planning. They are unpredictable and evolve quickly, often taking only ten to 15 minutes and usually before law enforcement arrives. The shooter plans knowing the layout of the business and determining its security and access features. They then select their target by deciding on a favorable feature or convenience that makes it easier for them.

    Planning is crucial for handling an active shooter situation

    One of the first actions you should take is to assemble a planning team that works with your HR department. If you are too small of a business to have an HR department, you still need to develop a plan. The role of this team is to teach employees how to identify potentially dangerous behavior and to develop a method to report any behavior issues.

    To best prepare your staff for an active shooter situation, create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP), and conduct regular training exercises. Create the EAP with input from your human resources department, your training department (if one exists), owners / operators/ managers, and always include local law enforcement and/or emergency responders. 

    This is where your preparedness comes into play. Determine the best way to protect your own life and everyone around you. People will follow the lead of employees and managers who are trained for the situation. Your EAP should include the following nine things:

    Safety tip No. 1: A preferred method for reporting emergencies.

    Safety tip No. 2: An evacuation policy and procedure that includes emergency escape procedures and route assignments (i.e., floor plans, safe areas). Leave personal items behind. Keep your hands visible. Do not move anyone who is wounded. Follow police instructions.

    Safety Tip No. 3: A crisis plan including contact information for, and responsibilities of, individuals to be contacted under the EAP, as well as designated spokespeople who have been trained to talk to the media or others.

    Safety tip No. 4: Information concerning local area hospitals (i.e., name, telephone number and distance from your location).

    Safety tip No. 5: An emergency notification system to alert various parties of an emergency including: Individuals at remote locations within premises, law enforcement and area hospitals.

    Safety tip No. 6: Mock active shooter training exercises and information on how to recognize and react to the sound of gunshots. Training exercises are the most effective way to train your staff to properly respond to an active shooter situation.

    Safety tip No. 7: Information on how and where to hide out. Lock doors and block with heavy furniture if possible. Hide under furniture or in closets. Stay quiet and as calm as possible.

    Safety tip No. 8: At least two evacuation routes that you post on the premises.

    Safety tip No. 9: A plan to stay aware of indications of workplace violence and take immediate actions in an attempt to avert any workplace violence situations.

    Taking these steps and preparing for workplace violence and active shooters will help keep everyone safe in the event of a confrontation.

    President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Speaker, Trainer, Corporate Security Expert Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com

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