byChris_Ogburn07-03-201209:24 AM - edited 07-03-201209:24 AM
I recently caught up with a former colleague I worked with much earlier in my career. As we were talking, it struck me that even though the number of years that have passed isn’t that great, they are years that have been packed with innovations that have led to one transformation after another.
My former colleague and I agreed that most noticeable among those transformations is the way that work seems to have become a bigger part of our lives, at the expense, according to many, of what we used to consider our off hours, or our personal lives. How did this happen? And more importantly, what can we do about it? That’s the question I put to Small Biz Nation, the LinkedIn community sponsored by HP and Intel.
While the discussion revolved around guidelines I think we’ve all reviewed before (many times, in many cases, including mine) I do think they’re worth revisiting.
According to many, a big part of assuring you’re at your sharpest on Monday morning is not working over the weekend. To achieve that, Allison Tibbs, founder of small business marketing consultancy Marquise commits to work-free weekends by not checking e-mail. Bill Greishober, advisor at New York State Small Business Development Center, believes it’s important to not take your work home with you, but equally important to not bring your home to work.
Scott Asai, a career coach who calls himself a solopreneur, emphasized the importance of knowing what your priorities are. “It comes down to personal goals,” he said. “I prioritize my family and relationships over my work and so I may have passed up some opportunities, but I can live with it.”
Doug Stoiber, vice president with L&M Transportation Services, takes what I think is a novel approach to attaining work-life balance, and that is to bring some of the work infrastructure into the personal realm. “Start scheduling other parts of your life like you do your business meetings,” he said. “Just about everyone nowadays uses some Internet-based calendar … if it’s important that you get out to the movies with your spouse on a regular basis or get home an hour early to play soccer or baseball with your kids while they’re young, put it on the calendar.” That will reduce, he continued, the number of opportunities to miss out on what’s important.
Finally, brand strategist, blogger and author Maria Ross reminded all that at the heart of work-life balance is the importance of being wherever you are completely. “When you are somewhere, be there 100 percent,” she said. “At work, on a project, when you’re at the beach with your kids or out to dinner with your spouse. When someone is good about balancing their own time, they are more organized for my work if I’m their client.”
All good points, of course, but my mind kept returning to where I started – my former colleague. We worked together before technology made it possible, and often expected, that we work anywhere and at any time. And when we worked together the world of business was neither as complex nor competitive as it is today. But what stays with me from our conversation has nothing to do with either of those factors.
When my former colleague and I recalled our other former co-workers it wasn’t their positions within the company we remembered them for, but what they did beyond the walls of the office. There were people for whom starting families and learning new languages and planning bicycle trips on other continents was as important as the job. If the term ‘work-life balance’ had been invented at that point – and I don’t believe it had – it wasn’t popular. If the conversation I had recently with my former colleague is any indication, that’s because we all had a life, and while some may require a bit of an attitude adjustment, I think most of us still do.