Work-life balance – It is no longer one or the other, it is always both

Work-life balance

My mobile phone buzzes, cajoling me to pick it up.

I look up at the clock on the cable set-top box, the time is 11:32 PM.

I ignore the phone and go back to the TV.

It’s Friday night, I am binge-watching the fifth season of House of Cards with my wife.

The phone vibrates again.

Reluctantly, I pick it to see if someone is sending me another joke on WhatsApp. Folks in India have just woken up.

It’s work.

I am not on call, nor working on a group project or deliverable. I don’t have customers on the other side of the globe.

Briefly, I consider replying to one of the emails, then decide against. I do not want to get sucked into a work-related discussion in the middle of the night on a weekend.

It’s family time; work can wait.

If the above feels like a movie that you have seen before, you are not alone.

Welcome to the world of real-time communications where work never stops, unless you chose to. And, work-life balance seems a lofty, unrealistic goal for a lot of people.

To some extent, we may have brought this upon ourselves.

Our obsession with staying connected every second of the day plays right into it. Everyone knows that every waking hour of the day you are online and checking notifications as they come in. So if you get the odd “Hey, got a minute?” you have no one else to blame.

Realistically though, in today’s world, can you really disconnect?

And, if you do disconnect, will it be a career limiting move (CLM)? What if you don’t respond to work-related communications after hours and your colleagues do?

On the flipside, there may be an upside here.

The same technology that keeps you working all the time also allows you to always stay connected to your personal network. Most employers have given up or cannot control what you do with your personal communication devices that you bring with you to work. Your personal interactions are no longer confined to evenings and weekends. There is nothing preventing you from making a restaurant reservation online, checking your Facebook timeline, or replying to a personal email from work.

So, perhaps there is some middle-ground here.

Maybe the new norm is a work-life balance where work never stops and your personal interactions also never really stop — even during normal “work hours.”

Then again, it is all about perspective.

For a lot of young people, probably this is the only model that they have seen and it does not phase them. They are comfortable with the overlap of work over life and vice-versa.

It is no longer one or the other; it is always both.

As for me, somewhere along the way, I made a choice — work time and personal time are like church and state to me.  I try and keep them separate to the extent possible.

I am old school.

And, if not replying to emails in the middle of the night is considered a CLM, so be it.

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