by Jasmin Aujla and Hadas Drutman
Hadas (11:32am): GM again! So we’ve decided to do a conversation for our last Medium article, great decision but now we need to figure out what we should talk about (this is a part of the article already — FYI). Any ideas?!
Jasmin (3:34pm): Sorry for the delay, crazy day. Hmmmm I’m not sure. There’s stuff from class we could talk about like how portfolios aren’t an accurate representation of who we are as people or I feel like we’re always going back and forth about what we call ourselves once we graduate — “Strategist” “Design Strategist” etc. but I also feel like we’ve had too many of those conversations over the past 2 years in general!
But something that just came to mind (literally right now) is your project on work/life balance. So I’m at work at the moment, and it’s such a chilled atmosphere, everyone is cool, my boss is the nicest and most un-intimidating person in the world. The bathrooms are stocked with tampons, air freshener and mouthwash, dogs are running around, I could honestly grab a beer from the fridge right now to have at my desk and nobody would bat an eyelid, but I just wouldn’t do that. Not because the environment doesn’t feel comfortable but because I feel like that’s inappropriate.
Soooo maybe when thinking about work/life balance it’s not just the employers that have to make things more open and comfortable but the employees need to change their mindsets too right?
Hadas (3:39pm): Hmmm…can I not respond about the whole work/life balance for a sec and get stuck a little on that beer situation that you mentioned?!
So the fact that there is a beer in the fridge, don’t you feel that it being there makes you think about work/life balance in a wrong way?! It’s so deceiving — beer will make you have work and life worked out. What if someone doesn’t even like beer? What’s the thing with all those empty symbols? This beer is like the ping-pong table syndrome….
Jasmin (1:10pm): That’s true — if we replaced the beer with a ping-pong table I wouldn’t be playing ping-pong right now either. But I guess the point I’m making is I should, technically, feel extremely comfortable in this environment. I can sit at my desk or on a sofa, I can chose to chat and be social with my co-workers/friends or I can find a quiet place for myself — but is it just about being comfortable?
I guess what I’m actually asking is what really IS work/life balance? and more than that, is it even achievable?
Hadas (5:01pm): I’m with you. But you know, I think what we are talking about is not really work/life balance, or maybe it’s that work/life balance is not something that will come from the workplace. Also, for our project, Loulwa, Ashley and I decided to put aside what we previously identified as this work/life balance and tried to think about the social meanings of it. We started with not thinking about these two separate things that we need to create balance between. It’s just LIFE! It’s not that you’re checking out your personal life when you’re entering your office…..so I guess what I’m trying to say is that the change won’t come from the office…it is something that goes much deeper and touches even our personal habits and “acceptable” social behaviors. Where do we start in changing those?
Hadas (5:06pm): Speaking of which…I just sent you a really nice period video on Instagram 🎀🎀🎀
Hadas (5:06pm): I just said Nice and Period on the same sentence….maybe this is our answer!
Jasmin (10:06am): That’s totally right, it is just life! It’s funny I was looking back on my research paper from last semester where I identified that disconnects between leadership and their employees occur because they don’t understand each other enough as real people, beyond the work environment — and happy hours and ping pong tables don’t solve that problem. And I guess the real reason I didn’t get that beer to drink at my desk wasn’t that I didn’t feel comfortable, but I wouldn’t be drinking beers on Monday afternoons even if I wasn’t at work (maybe…situation depending)
So where does it go from here? We just need to be more open and honest people in general?
Hadas (10:44am): Less self-centered for sure, more aware of our environment I guess, but I don’t know if this is it. Ok, I’m going to shift us away for a sec in order to get back to this smarter ;)
So we dedicated this email chain for a conversation that we will submit as our last Medium article right?! And we are talking about a very important and even urgent issue… But now in the middle of the conversation the only thing I want to ask you/talk to you about is if I should get a haircut! Does it make me less serious about our work/life balance conversation? I would say — yes, but after a little thought — not really. I guess what I’m trying to say or ask here is — why did we become this self-filter that we are? Doesn’t filtering limit creativity? I know that you get what I’m trying to say and how it’s related to what we were initially talking about…
Jasmin (11:27am): Are you asking me if talking about haircuts takes away from our intellectual conversation about work/life balance (or the lack of it)?
People always say there is a time and a place for certain conversations — but maybe there isn’t at all. I can recall many times where I’ve had deep and important conversations with people about work or current affairs, whilst also thinking to myself about what I might eat for dinner that night. It’s natural to multi-task; we’re doing it all the time anyways. So sure, get your hair cut, I was actually considering cutting mine too (not as short as last time, but something like that) — OH and speaking of hair, that actually brings me back to this whole work/life balance thing. When I was in London over Christmas, I went to see my old boss at Estee Lauder in their new offices which were amazing, and they have an in-house hair salon where anyone can go during the day, and because they’re still connected to WiFi it doesn’t interfere with them getting their work done and having their hair done at the same time. I liked that.
Also the terms “work/life” and “balance” are starting to annoy me, should we reframe them or just stop using them altogether??
Hadas (12:11pm): Ha! I knew you’d get it!!! Exactly! There is nothing wrong with multi-tasking/thinking; not only that there is nothing wrong with it, I think it also helps you push yourself to get to better results because by doing so you’re in a way “balancing” your mind.
Those highs and lows/intellectual and non-intellectuals shouldn’t have the separations we are so used to creating between them. Kind of like work and life shouldn’t be two separate things!!
I love the hair salon at work as a concept, I guess these kind of changes will drive bigger changes in the way we think about work behavior; my only concern is that the salon will eventually become the ping-pong table and will miss it’s bigger purpose….
I would love to get rid of those work/life/balance terms, but do you think it will happen only when we figure out what this balance is, or convince people that it’s not relevant/doesn’t exist?!
Hadas (12:13pm): Ohhh and cut your hair! I loved it when it was short!!
Hadas (12:20pm): And about questioning our intellect…we are talking about this issue a lot, I guess since Leandra from Man Repeller put it into the right words by explaining that an interest in fashion doesn’t minimize a person’s intellect, and this is what Man Repeller, as a platform, stands for. This is very relevant to our conversation!!
Jasmin (12:28pm): Totally — come to think of it I don’t actually think the ping pong table or the hair salon is the problem, it’s just the mindset around it.
In many workplaces today, we see a ping pong table and immediately think it’s the company’s way of saying “Hey we’re cool, we have ping pong but we don’t actually want you to play” but the ideal message should be “this is your space, be comfortable, be reliable, whatever enables you to get great sh*t done and be happy”
Hadas (12:33pm): Couldn’t say it better!
Jasmin (12:33pm): I think “intellect” is often confused by what you do and what your interests are — but that’s not the case. The same way MR advocates that an interest in fashion bears no reflection on a person’s intellect — neither does our conversation about haircuts in the midst of a discussion about work/life balance.
Seriously “work/life” balance is really annoying me now.
Hadas (12:35pm): Should we finish on this note?! ;)
Jasmin (12:36pm): Yeah I’m good leaving it there!