To be honest, I never thought I’d write a post like this. I’ve been a strong advocate of work life balance, measuring the minutes spent on each and loudly proclaiming the sacredness of personal time away from work… BUT… reality, as it often does, has intruded on my wishful thinking. Your and my reality, thanks to the world wide web, is now a 24/7 world.
While I’m sleeping, my Chinese colleagues are busily writing me emails and while they are sleeping, I am returning them. My friend in Africa is telling me about local conditions there and I want to share with him the latest gossip here. Real time connections with your colleague or friend means someone is staying up late or getting up early and the world’s expectations for instantaneous response is increasing the time pressure on us all. No longer can we wait until back at work to check emails… need to check them before going to bed… YIKES!
So, does this mean personal time is dead? ABSOLUTELY NOT! (apologies for the fourteenth time today you’ve had to hear or read the word “absolutely”). Give up the old, no longer practical idea of work/life balance and strive for work/life integration. Accept the fact that our world is now always connected, and make use of it to build a life that brings you both your work satisfaction and your personal satisfaction. Yes, monitor and post on your personal facebook during work time, and yes, check in on your emails in the evening and weekends to touch the important ones or handle the urgent ones (and ignore the rest). Maybe you do an extra long personal lunch with a friend during work, maybe you do a work conference call on the weekend… Go with the flow of our new reality.
Many of our facebook pages already reflect this integration of personal and work lives in our posts, as well as our friends. And this is how we are as human beings anyways – our work colleagues often become our friends, and our friends are interested in our working lives. Also, we want both kinds of growth: our work development, our career and our professional practice knowledge needs to grow simultaneously to our personal growth. The simple truth is both needs are connected at the root our selves, which perpetually seeks to find meaningful experiences to help it grow.
So, give up the old idea of work/life balance and go for work/life integration. You’ll be happier and more satisfied, and you’ll be in touch with how the world really is. Don’t separate them – integrate them!
Want to get another point of view? This thinking was stimulated by a post by Craig Chappelow of the Center for Creative Leadership, a colleague/friend of mine from my days at CCL: