Today, there is a persisting notion of keeping your work life and personal life separate. The idea that private matters should stay at home while professional matters remain confined to the office has long dominated our understanding of “work-life balance.” Personally, I believe in work-life integration instead.

To me, balancing being a wife and a mother of five, along with my many responsibilities as a Partner of our Firm and a member of multiple professional organizations, is quite challenging. What I opt for instead is weaving these multifaceted aspects of my life together to create harmony. Where and how I choose to spend my time—whether I’m in the office, at home, or out playing sports—are all valuable parts of the one life I have.

Years ago, when I was a new Partner, I faced the challenge of being present for both my family and my work. One day, I decided to let my children camp out at my personal office while I stayed up all night working with my team. Instead of shooing them away and making them feel like they were hindering my work, I saw an opportunity. As I set up their sleeping bags and a makeshift tent made of blankets and office chairs, I set off to tackle another day of the busy season.

Wrapping up my tasks, I found myself more focused and motivated, knowing that my kids were close by. This moment was a turning point for me, where I realized that blending my personal and professional lives could lead to greater fulfillment and productivity.

Communication is Key

Then and now, I have been fortunate to have a considerate support system that has allowed me to communicate my needs, both at work and at home. I’m thankful to my team, who understood when I had to excuse myself during a team meeting because of one of my daughter’s urgent calls (a boy asked her to be his prom date) or when I had to leave the office early to watch my daughter’s guitar recital, and to my children for understanding their mother's many work responsibilities. Last but not the least, I am grateful to my husband, who, as a fellow CPA, is well aware of the busy lives our profession leads. While our children are our priority, we also make it a point to have simple dates that not only give us time together but also allow us to lead a healthy lifestyle, from biking, badminton, running, and more.

Integrating these aspects of my life would've been impossible had I not had an environment that allowed me to fulfill my responsibilities both as a professional and as a mother.

In turn, I’ve made it a point to reciprocate this understanding and support for those around me. We must also aspire to create an environment where people don’t have to put up separate personas for work.

The key to integrating your life and work together is communication. Because everyone’s experience is unique, it’s important to acknowledge the specific challenges one may face. From menstrual cramps disrupting your focus to the societal pressures of balancing career and family, women face a myriad of challenges that often go unspoken in the workplace. What we can do is bridge this gap through mutual communication and empathy.

Enabling work-life integration

One of the biggest factors that allow us to strive for work-life integration is our organization and their policies. Grant Thornton International’s Women in Business study has found that one of the paths to gender parity is flexible work practices. In fact, the data shows that businesses with either flexible, hybrid, or home-based work have a higher percentage of women in senior management compared to typical office-based work. This could be attributed to a more inclusive work culture that accommodates different lifestyles and needs.

Unfortunately, after the pandemic, some businesses have opted to return to the traditional office setup. This poses challenges for everyone, but especially women. Boel Hansson, Partner in Assurance and Board member of Grant Thornton Sweden, believes that flexible work practices play a key role in retaining and progressing women. “For employees that take maternity leave, when they are ready to return to work, hybrid working is key for us to keep them and help them proceed in their career.”

Personally, I have also benefited from flexible work arrangements. I, too, had days of attending webinars while preparing meals for my kids. Being able to work remotely on certain days allowed me to be more present for them while still meeting my professional obligations. This flexibility not only supported my personal life but also contributed to my overall job satisfaction and productivity.

As part of the senior management of our Firm, I made it a point to advocate for flexible work practices in pursuit of enabling work-life integration for everyone. Drawing from my personal experiences, I understand that work practices play a big role in not only productivity, but also the Firm’s Diversity towards gender parity.

Moving Forward

It's time to move away from the outdated notion of compartmentalizing our lives and instead embrace the idea that our personal and professional spheres can co-exist harmoniously. Let us move away from the idea that work is not the enemy of life—and vice versa.

My advice, especially to my fellow women, is that you no longer have to make personas for the many facets of your life; you are one person. Embrace your whole self and create an environment that supports flexibility, understanding, and mutual respect. With communication and empathy, we can create a more inclusive and supportive work culture where individuals can thrive both personally and professionally. 


As published in The Manila Times, dated 03 April 2024