One of the topics that I set myself to blog about way back when I first got things started over here a few years ago was surprisingly enough about Work Life Balance (Yes, I know, it doesn’t have much to do with KM, Collaboration, Communities, Learning or Social Computing for that matter… but not to worry, bear with me… ); and that everlasting battle of living both a fruitful and satisfying online and offline life without going crazy along the way. Well, it’s been a long while since I shared a blog post on this topic, so I thought I would spend with you folks today a few minutes talking about it. Because, in my own experience, it’s not about striking a good work life balance, but eventually it’s all about Work Life Integration.
This blog entry is inspired by another article that was written a few hours back by my good friend, and former IBM colleague, Alan Lepofsky under the title "Finding The Balance Between Online and Off" and I can certainly recommend it as an interesting and thought-provoking post on what are some of the various different challenges that knowledge workers face today with regards to their own exposure to the online world: The Social Web.
Alan questions that, as more and more social networking tools keep flourishing and demanding much more of our attention and that of our various social networks we hang out with online (We can see the latest example with Google Buzz), it is becoming increasingly more difficult to make it work in a balanced way with our offline lives. To the point where, while we may enjoy quite a bit our own online lives, we seem to keep neglecting the offline ones. And that may not be a good thing altogether. Read through his entire post and you will see what I mean…
For a good number of years most businesses have been trying to strike that good balance between like and work for each and everyone of their knowledge workers. More than anything else, because it’s probably the right thing to do (And you will see what I mean in a couple of minutes…). However, things didn’t always work out as they should have and eventually if you would go out and start asking those employees they would tell that work life balance is a myth. At least, for them!
Well, it shouldn’t be! After all, we are all smart and very productive knowledge workers, aren’t we not? I mean, "A knowledge worker is someone who gets to decide what he does each morning" (Beautiful quote by Thomas A. Stewart), so why is it that difficult to strike that good balance between the two? To me, it’s all about our inability of "Saying No!" (By the way, I would strongly recommend you read that wonderfully crafted article by Alexandra Samuel, although I would totally understand it if you say "No!" ;-)).
It’s about our inability to let things go (Like reading every single thing that comes through your way – Facebook, Twitter, email, newsgroups messages, Instant Messaging, etc. etc.); to let information fly past by us without even having a peek at it; to say "No!" to other fellow knowledge workers, because we don’t want to hurt their feelings; to be ourselves when we already know what’s right and what’s not so right (Working from 6:00 am in the morning till midnight is not right! No matter what your boss or your colleagues tell you about it or regardless of that huge deadline that is approaching!).
And things are only getting worse! All of that thanks to social software tools! Yes, that’s right! With them the always thin line between work and life becomes thinner than ever. We are now more capable of working remotely, distributed and virtual that our personal offline lives, vs. our online work related ones, are becoming almost impossible to distinguish. And that’s when we are starting to be in trouble, as Alan has put it quite nicely under the rather insightful questions he ponders towards the end of his post.
So, you may be wondering, where do you draw the line? How do you put a stop to it? Where have I drawn the line myself (Specially seeing how most folks who know me seem to be perceiving how I seem to "live" out there, up in the clouds, on various social networks, when it is actually not the case)? Well, it starts with that concept I mentioned at the beginning of this post: it’s all about Work Life Integration!
"In today’s fast-changing world, the most skilled and creative professionals expect to take charge of their own integrated lives"
That’s right! Spot on! It all starts with you! Not your boss, nor your peers, nor your family, nor your friends. It all starts with you taking responsibility, and action!, for your own online and offline life; for your own work and personal life; in short, it all starts with you taking care of yourself. No one else. Just you! Yes, I can tell you you may not please your boss, your colleagues, your family, friends and whatever other acquaintances. But that’s fine, don’t worry too much about it! Why? Well, for a very good reason: because if you don’t do it, NO ONE will! That’s why it all starts with you deciding what you do each morning. But think wisely. That’s where work life integration kicks in! That’s where you take back control of who you are and how you may make use of your time, both offline and online.
Unfortunately, that’s something that I learned myself throughout the years the hard way. Till one day (Those of you who know me well would probably venture to guess when that happened and be right) I decided to put a stop to it. To say enough was enough. I wanted to make that work life integration work out for me all right. Not for everyone else, but for me. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty for everyone, but thanks to that move I could probably state I’m still alive and kicking and *loving* what I do, both offline and online!
Thus the next time that someone asks you to do something, to read something, to comment on something, to get something done even, sit back, relax, count to 10 while you are taking a deep breath and evaluate, rather carefully, whether that new task fits right in with your recently re-discovered self: the one who understands that what matters the most is your own self, because no-one else would for you … Time to take control back of who you are both online and offline, don’t you think?
Tags: Work Life Balance, Work, Life, Balance, Work Life Integration, Integration, Alan Lepofsky, Offline, Online, Google Buzz, Thomas Stewart, Knowledge Workers, Saying No, Alexandra Samuel, New Workplace, Models, Self, Things That Matter, Smaller Things, Enterprise 2.0, Social Software, Social Networking, Social Computing, Social Media, Collaboration, Communities, Learning, Knowledge Sharing, KM, Knowledge Management, Remote Collaboration, Innovation, IBM, Networking, Social Networks, Conversations, Dialogue, Communication, Connections, Relationships, Productivity