Continuing further along with the series of blog posts about busting myths with regards to remote / distributed work, I thought I’d cover today what has been one of my pet peeves from over the course of the last two decades and that, somehow, throughout the pandemic, it’s become perhaps a bit more poignant and disappointing altogether in equal measure. I thought we had learned a thing or two about it over the years, but, then again, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Of course, I am talking about the so-called work / life balance and how if you happen to work either remote or distributedly, you’re bound to no longer have a life, but just work, work, work! My goodness! What a bunch of boll*cks! Yikes!
By now, I am pretty sure you may have been exposed to this particular cartoon that seems to have been making the rounds out there for a good few months already and that, I suppose, it still resonates with plenty of people who may have just gotten started with remote / distributed work as a result of the pandemic itself:
— irina blok (@irinablok)
Well, the harsh reality is a bit more nuanced than that, I am afraid. In fact, we may need to break down for good a couple of myths in here, because this one in particular is causing a lot more harm than helping out, to the point where remote / distributed work are both gaining plenty of bad, and totally underserved!, reputation. Allow me to explain further …
As a starting point, that false narrative we have been taught to believe over the last few decades by certain people about striking a good work / life balance in order to keep our own sanity intact was a lie. Nothing but a lie. In fact, it still is a lie. We all bought it as a given. The thing is that there has never been such balance. It just does not exist. Why? Well, because work always wins. Always. No exceptions. Work will adamantly insist on eating up our lives. One hour at a time. Week after week, month after month, year after year. To the point of exhaustion or, simply, no longer having a life. Literally.
I started blogging about the deceptive and misleading narrative of striking a good work / life balance over 17 years ago. I have never been a huge fan of it. In fact, quite the opposite. I discovered, early in the game of my professional career, how pernicious and damaging to one’s health it can become, if you let it rule your entire life thinking, ‘You’ve got it!’ No, you don’t. I went through that nasty experience myself twice and had to learn the hard way how to stop focusing on it and do something else instead.
Nowadays, what I do focus on is something I have also written about extensively over the years: Work / Life INTEGRATION. In the context of remote / distributed work, that is, to me, where the magic really is: understanding both work and life are inseparable. In fact, if anything, work is just one other thing you do in your life. As such, it needs to integrate into everything else you already do. Never finding a balance, but finding its place. Understanding the shift from keeping work & life separate to, instead, blending both as one and the other. Together. As they should be. A single entity that doesn’t need separation, but integration into your whole self.
How do we achieve such work / life integration then, you may be asking yourself, right?, at a time when we seem to always be connected, always on, constantly glued to our screens, working longer hours (Ready to respond to that incoming chat message, or email, at an ungodly hour or perhaps jump into that next Web meeting), as we transitioned to either remote or distributed work as the new-normal. Well, in a nutshell, it’s about having the choice (Your choice alone!) to reengineer such work / life integration for yourself. On your terms. And this is where social, digital tools are key towards effecting such massive shift.
Back in 2012, I wrote this blog post on how ‘Social Business Accelerates Work as a State of Mind’. In that article, I explained the much needed re-focus away from presenteeism, from the hours clocked in as a fabricated measure of your productivity, from the social pressure of going to the office every single day of the week so you don’t miss out on the daily gossip, or from the perpetuation of the Cult of Busyness. Instead, the focus should be on the results, outcomes and deliverables you provide while working from anywhere.
Essentially, focus on the impact you make (both individually AND collectively) with the social, digital tools at your disposal. And enjoy the many benefits …
Oooh, and talking about benefits, perks and business value of either remote or distributed work, allow me to shared with you all a good number of articles, blog posts, publications, extensive research, relevant studies, and what not, that have been conducted over the course of the last couple of years, demonstrating how not only have we become more engaged at work, but how we are incredibly more productive AND effective at what we do, while in the midst of the worst healthcare emergency for the last 100 years. Not too shabby, right?
Over time, I’m hoping to revisit this topic, as I know it will be a recurring one. All in all, as an effort to continue doing a bit of myth busting with regards to remote / distributed work and that work / life
balance integration by sharing a good number of additional good business practices, lessons learned, hints & tips and whatever other extended research on the topic I may have been curating over time. But, for now, I’ll leave you all with one of my favourite benefits that allows me to remain an engaged, distributed knowledge (Web) worker … in 2022:
Remember, it’s a choice. Life is just too short to let certain people decide for you what your work / life integration should be like.
It’s your choice, and yours alone!, to make. After all, we all have got a single life to live, but many jobs to enjoy and excel at…