You are probably familiar with the term “work-life balance”. However, this term has developed over time and nowadays is often referred to as “work-life integration”. We asked Gina Kuhr, our Career Center Coordinator at UE, what the term is all about and how applicable this way of life really is in our everyday lives. Gina is in daily contact with students and leads workshops on these topics.
To what extent does the term “work-life balance” still make sense in the modern day? How has this term developed?
Gina Kuhr: The term “work-life balance” has already been replaced. The word “balance” conveys that your work and private life are two different things, each of which has the same weighting. However, this does not reflect the reality of life for most people. Work and leisure are less strongly separated. Both employees and employers have become more flexible. In most companies, employees are free to do their work from home. Everyday working life is becoming much more flexible and boundaries are becoming blurred.
Should your studies/work and private life be kept as separate as possible despite blurred boundaries?
Gina Kuhr: There are still professions in which both aspects can be separated. It also depends on which generation you speak to. Flexibility can be a win-win situation if it is a give and take between company and employees. If the company allows more freedom in a workspace, then the employee can also show flexibility. Whether one wants to and can separate the two aspects of their lives must be decided on an individual basis.
How do you avoid stress, for example during exam season?
Gina Kuhr: Stress does not arise from a situation or a problem as such. In this case, the “problem“ would be the upcoming exams. Stress rather arises from a reaction and the assessment of the situation. This is the point at which one can start. However, if the situation cannot be changed, it is possible to control how one reacts to it. A new way of thinking allows you to focus on the essential tasks again.
It is also important to always focus on the present. Stress is created by always thinking about the next step. It is more productive to concentrate fully on one task, complete it and then move on to the next task.
Is there positive stress? To what extent are you motivated or even blocked by these situations?
Gina Kuhr: There is a certain level of stress that everyone feels, for example, before a presentation. This stress activates the cognitive abilities and you have more energy. This can certainly spur you on and drive performance.
Are you allowed to take breaks if you want to be successful?
Gina Kuhr: If you want to be successful, you cannot afford not to take breaks. The brain is not designed for that at all. Learned things are best processed during sleep. A restful sleep is therefore very important to maintaining the productivity of studying. During these breaks you should also focus on the break itself. Thinking about the next project or the next step in the work process takes away its effectiveness.
How do you define success?
Gina Kuhr: The term success is individually defined by everyone. Especially during exam season we want to ask ourselves the question whether success is just a good grade or leading a fulfilling life outside of studying. However, this can only be judged by the individual.
What other tips and tricks would you like to share with us?
Gina Kuhr: I think, we live in the future or in the past far too often. But life is always now! The key here is mindfulness. Concentrate on what you hear, what you smell, see and thus, find your way back to the moment. This effectively counteracts your cycle of thoughts. Relaxation techniques and mediation can help.
Less is more. Multitasking may give you the feeling of being able to do more because you are working on everything at the same time, but you can achieve much more if you concentrate on a single task. Particularly when time is short, it is important to work mindfully and concentrate on one thing.
In summary, “Work-life integration” has become part of our lives and you can work on your stress management every day. Work and life go hand in hand. It is up to you to shape your life the way you feel most comfortable and to achieve your own version of success.