This New Study Refutes Everything You Know About Work/Life Balance

Kelsey Clark

While we recently wrote about how checking your work email after hours is cause for "emotional exhaustion," we'd now like to consider the opposing argument: That blending work and play together is actually good for you. Such is the hypothesis of management researcher David Burkus, who recently published this somewhat uncommon opinion in Harvard Business Review

"It's true that for some time, the best advice on work/life balance was to create stiffer boundaries between both," writes Burkus. "But new research suggests that maintaining strict distinctions between work roles and home roles might actually be what is causing our feelings of stress to set in." Switching back and forth between roles requires something called "cognitive role reversal," which, depending on how disparate the roles are, can prove to be more challenging than maintaining these life divisions in the first place.

Think of it this way: When it hits 8 p.m. on a Sunday night, the "Sunday Scaries" set in as you begin to think about work the next day. But what if you had let the weekday and the weekend bleed together a bit more? Burkus would argue that the switch from play mode back to work mode would be less draining if you had simply checked your email on a Saturday, or maybe went out with co-workers over the weekend.

"When people tried to keep work and home life separate, their cognitive role transitions were more likely to take more effort and thus hurt their performance," Burkus says of the new research. But when people allowed their two lives to coalesce into one—called "role integration"—they were "less depleted" by the weekly switches.

Are you team separation or integration? Choose sides below and test out this time management app to cultivate a work/life balance that works for you.

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