Whipping Up a Work/Life Smoothie

It happens to everyone. At first it might be just an email or two, a tiny ding on your smartphone that takes your eyes away from an after-dinner TV show. Then, before you realize it, you’re spending half of your weekend spinning over the contents of last week’s meeting, popping out of bed in the middle of the night with one more idea, ducking out of family get-togethers early so that you can make a few calls.

It starts to leak. It’s natural. This is a part of business, of having a career, and it’s even more of a part of life for a small business owner. For you, it might be near impossible to dial back, refocus on outside activities, carve out quality time for your family.

Reports state that finding a work/life balance is important. A recent study found that it’s the “key determiner for more than half of men and women on whether or not they have a successful career.” And a Businessweek article reports that those who feel they actually do have a decent work/life balance work 21% harder.

But things look fairly bleak. After all, as a nation we’re pretty low on the totem pole. We rank a measly 28th among advanced nations for work/life balance.

And this is now a world of total connectivity. With technological advances like smartphones and cloud networks, workers are finding that they are rarely “turned off.” We’re living in a different world, where work simply can’t be left at work anymore like the lunch you forgot to eat. It follows us.

But maybe this isn’t something to feel bad about. After all, adding guilt to the mix isn’t likely to do any good here. And people are starting to notice that the changing work environment is now calling for a new standard. Forbes calls it a “Work-Life Blend.” A Huffington Post article veered away from the term “balance” and headed instead for the word “congruence.” BBC Capital recently published an article titled: “No such thing as work-life balance,” which described the term as “elusive.” Ouch.

There are, however, a few things all of these articles had in common. The big factor in this? Technology. We have to accept that the technology we have is completely different than that of the original “work/life balance” concept.

The BBC article stresses that a different way to think of those beeping alerts and dinner-interrupting notifications is to consider whether or not you have “an imbalanced relationship with technology,” that life is actually a mixture of work and what happens outside of it. It’s about finding life balance.

And employers and business owners can help. Allowing work and life to blend together can actually boost productivity and morale. In a report from Dell and Intel (found in this article from BusinessNewsDaily), when employees get to make choices about their mobility and technologies, they work better.

What does this mean? Some companies are experimenting with work-from-home days, abbreviated hours, mobile devices, and more. But these changes can bring new issues.

An article in Entrepreneur explores some of the concerns businesses might have in implementing a telecommuting aspect into their company. After all, it can be scary to think of all of the things that might be happening off-site. And sometimes it doesn’t work. Productivity could drop; employees could become scarce. These are real concerns.

However, the article argues that there’s a wide range of options and approaches when launching an off-site work plan. You can always “start small” and tailor the plan to fit what works for your company. After all, the risk could be worth it. Inspired, productive employees can make or break a business.

Another hot concern is security. The same report from BusinessNewsDaily found that most business leaders agree that letting employees use “personal devices in the workplace exposes the company to increased security risks and potential data mismanagement.” Addressing these issues is a real part of the work/life conversation, and not one to be taken lightly. Whether or not you impose restrictions, and what those restrictions might be, is entirely up to you.

A more flexible work situation, designed to better effectively weave into and flow with one’s outside life, is an interesting thing to consider. But is this really the death of the work/life balance? Is it time to put that idea to bed and to start addressing the new blended concept?

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Photo credit: cookbookman17

 

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