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What is Work-life Wellness?

While doing research for a study on entrepreneurs with University of Calgary Adjunct Professor, Dr. Laura Hambley, we searched for a term to replace work-life balance. Most of you will recognize work-life balance as a common term used to describe finding balance between work and personal life commitments.

According to a recent study, work-life balance is “not division of equal number of hours” to personal and work life, as the term suggests. Rather, it is a subjective application of time to work and personal life, as desired. However, through numerous discussions within industry, most preferred not to use this term because it implies balance as an unachievable ideal. To suggest balance implies perfection, and work versus life priorities are constantly in flux.

Work-life integration arose as another term in the research to replace work-life balance, and is defined as blending work and personal life. Unfortunately, the notion of blending work and personal lives can be problematic, since highly integrated lifestyles are often related to higher levels of exhaustion. One reason for this is that people who integrate their work with their personal life may have trouble setting boundaries and making time for what is important.

However, another study found that for people who prefer integrating their work and life, bringing work home does not interfere with, and may even facilitate, work home compatibility. Since there seems to be disagreement around work-life integration, we decided against using this as the main term for our study.

We then investigated the term work-life wellness. Only finding this term on a handful of industry websites describing employee health, work-life wellness was simply not yet being used by researchers to describe how people manage their personal life and work. Why not? It’s a catchy term and it describes what we are all longing for – the ability to be well in different aspects of our lives and feel well about the connection between work and home.

Work-life wellness encompasses the desire for wellness in our lives, without suggesting balance or integration as the ideal. Whatever method used to reach the desired level of wellness is up to the individual. Coining a new term for use in research allows us to describe this phenomenon in a way that accurately depicts what is happening in industry, while refining academic terminology.

Seeking Out Work-Life Wellness

How can we implement work-life wellness in our everyday lives? Here are a few tips:

  • Set boundaries: make daily goals and schedule time for both work activities and personal activities.
  • Be focused: notice what time of the day you are most productive and tackle more complex tasks during that time.
  • Minimize interruptions: dedicate a certain area to work only and silence non-urgent notifications while working.
  • When working from home, set a clear work area and turn off your computer and work devices when your work hours are over.
  • Establish routines: implement work start-up and slow-down rituals and take scheduled breaks.

Do you think work-life wellness expresses a life-giving connection between work and personal life? Or do you think we are better off using the term work-life balance? Let us know on Twitter by mentioning @BusinessLinkAB.


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Rebecca Como and Dr. Laura Hambley

Rebecca Como
Rebecca is a psychology honour’s student at the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Commerce degree (2014) from the University of Alberta. She is working with Dr. Laura Hambley to study entrepreneurs who work from home or coworking spaces, and their work-life wellness. Her goal is to understand whether entrepreneurs who work from home have different work-life wellness levels than those who work from coworking spaces. In addition to attending university, Rebecca is an administrator at Work EvOHlution, Calgary Career Counselling, and Synthesis Psychology. You can reach Rebecca by emailing rebecca.como1@ucalgary.ca.

Dr. Laura Hambley
Laura is an experienced consultant and entrepreneur who helped develop and launch Work EvOHlution, due to her passion for enhancing distributed worker success. Laura holds a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from the University of Calgary (2005), specializing in the human dynamics of distributed leadership and teamwork. She has completed and published extensive research on the critical success factors for effectively leading distributed teams. Laura also coordinated a major telework research project through the Haskayne School of Business in Calgary (2004-05), and has co-authored a book on the topic (Growing the Virtual Workplace, 2008). Further, she has developed and delivered training on distributed teams for organizations and universities, and assesses leaders and teams across industries.

Laura is an entrepreneur who also founded Canada Career Counselling and co-founded the Leadership Success Group, a Calgary-based leadership consulting firm. She is currently an Adjunct Professor with the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary, and enjoys actively participating in research and supervising/teaching students. You can reach her at laura@workevohlution.com.