When I was younger I heard over and over again that I better pick something I love to do, because I would be doing it for a long time. It was this kind of ominous advice that truly meant “hey, enjoy yourself as a kid because you will have a job the rest of your life, and it’s going to suck”. I’m sure many of you heard the same. I’m also sure many of you were taught that work is just a means to an end. That end was implied to either being the living of the “rest of your life” or more typically meant a good retirement. All these teachings led many of us to believe that the term “work-life balance” means work less, and live more now…. or work hard now, live more later.
In the modern, highly connected, Internet based professional workforce that many of us live in today, I think this is all crap. Work should be… and better be… fun. And I’m not talking about fun like in a playground or on a boogie board (who doesn’t love a good boogie board), but fun in its long hours, challenging, always connected, invasive in our personal lives fun. You know that type of fun right??? Or did I just scare some of you? Continue if you dare…
Here’s my thought…the term work/life balance, in our current modern, hyper-connected professional work force, simply means that work-life and personal-life blend perfectly together and grow in harmony with each other. It means that rarely, if ever, do you get to completely check out of the “work world” just like you never check out of our “personal world”. For example, when was the last time you turned off your phone at work so your spouse or friend couldn’t connect with you? Exactly. Always connected, always blended.
Technology has afforded us the awesome flexibility to get home early enough to have dinner with our family, while then afterwards seamlessly finish what needs finishing after our kids are asleep. It has afforded many of us the opportunity to work remotely either full time or sometimes, so that we can be at the location we’d like to be when we want to be. It also afforded us the ability on a Sunday to check in on our projects in advance of the week easily while we’re taking a break from boogie boarding (yes, you can still go boogie boarding). It has turned the 40 hour work week into…well… still 40 hours… but there’s just no clocking in or out.
To me, when your work identity and your personal identity are nearly one in the same, you get your best work done, you feel the most satisfied in life in general — and you are the best work-you and the best personal-you. Everything is seamless when these identities blend.
There is a great article just released in the Economist magazine which dives deeper on this subject. Its titled “Why do we work so hard?”. Its a phenomenal read and here is a snippet:
As professional life has evolved over the past generation, it has become much more pleasant. Software and information technology have eliminated much of the drudgery of the workplace. The duller sorts of labour have gone, performed by people in offshore service-centres or by machines. Offices in the rich world’s capitals are packed not with drones filing paperwork or adding up numbers but with clever people working collaboratively.
The pleasure lies partly in flow, in the process of losing oneself in a puzzle with a solution on which other people depend. The sense of purposeful immersion and exertion is the more appealing given the hands-on nature of the work: top professionals are the master craftsmen of the age, shaping high-quality, bespoke products from beginning to end. We design, fashion, smooth and improve, filing the rough edges and polishing the words, the numbers, the code or whatever is our chosen material. At the end of the day we can sit back and admire our work — the completed article, the sealed deal, the functioning app — in the way that artisans once did, and those earning a middling wage in the sprawling service-sector no longer do.
This post may scare some of you, and that’s a bit of the point, especially if you don’t like your job and just grinding through it mindlessly. A new perspective is powerful. Those of us in the rich capital countries in professional jobs are extremely fortunate because we have it like no one else does and certainly better than any previous generation. It does mean, however, that work is with you all the time… it’s part of you… embrace it!