Forget Work-Life “Balance” Think Work-Life Integration

Work-Life “balance” is often discussed in the medical science liaison profession, particularly when it comes to long term retention of high performing MSLs. Travel can be grueling during conference summers and can tense up interpersonal relationships. Perhaps the conversation needs to move toward work-life “integration”, not work-life “balance”.

scale Make no mistake: “Work-Life Integration” does not mean dissolving boundaries between work and personal domains. I am not talking about “making your work, your life”. I am using the original definition of “work-life integration”, which is:

“…A perceptual phenomenon characterized by a sense of having achieved a satisfactory resolution of the multiple demands” of work and life (Source: Higgins, C. et al. (2000). Human Resource Management, 39(1), 17-32.) Let’s break this definition into parts:

**Perceptual phenomenon**. This is about your perception, how you feel about what is happening in your MSL career and in your personal life.

**A sense of having achieved**. Again, this is about your perception: your sense of achievement. Note the qualifier, “A sense of having achieved” versus simply “achieved.” This is more about your feeling and interpretation of your work-life situation, and therefore your subjective experience. Two MSLs can have very different interpretations of the same kind of work-life experience, which is why work-life balance remains a moving target.

**A satisfactory resolution** of multiple demands. Your perception/sense of how satisfied you are in meeting multiple demands in a time parameter. In other words, your MSL job may feel like a well-oiled machine one week, while chaotic or disorganized the next. Gauging day-to-day work-life integration is not going to give you an accurate picture anymore than looking at your day’s appointment(s) is not reflecting on your actual contribution/value as a MSL.

Thus for medical science liaisons, when you feel like you are at peace with how you are responding to and resolving the demands from both work and personal life within a given time period (for example, one month or one business quarter), you have created work-life integration for that time period.

**Your goal is to have more time periods of this level of fulfillment, than periods of lower levels of fulfillment. Remember, the key phrase is “satisfactory resolution”, not “satisfaction”, not “completion”, and certainly not “perfection”.**

An intelligent and informed conversation about how you can create work-life integration for yourself requires you to look at the different demands from work and personal life, then ask yourself what would constitute a state of “satisfactory resolution” for the current phase of life. Plan for phases when your personal life demands more, as much as when you can give more of yourself at work.

This is about being at peace with your choices around how much of your personal life you want to bring into work, and how much work you want to bring into your personal life.

This is about being at peace with all the trade-offs you have to make as medical science liaisons, in both professional and personal domains.

Until Next Time!