The longer I write about work/life balance, the more I hear and see that technology challenges are universal. From CEOs to sales persons, today’s workers are trying to build balanced lives by battling the impulse to stay connected 24/7. Checking work emails on our tablets or smartphones in bed or at a bar makes us feel like we’re working all the time.
The reality, though, is more complicated.
While we are logging onto work outside of traditional work hours — from our bed or a soccer practice — we are also taking time for our personal lives during our workday. Almost everyone, from the office secretary to the store manager, makes a personal digital escape thoughtlessly throughout the day. We tell ourselves: “I’m just going to buy Beyoncé’s new single on iTunes and go right back to work.” The problem, however, is that it doesn’t end there.
While at work, we’re checking our fantasy football results, browsing our Facebook feeds, shopping on Amazon, playing Candy Crush, catching up on news, talking to friends on Twitter and texting constantly during the day.
Work and home no longer are separate spheres. Blurred lines are the new normal.
Researcher Laura Demasi says we aren’t working more, we’re working differently: “For every moment we give away to work outside of traditional work hours ... we claw back when we’re officially at work.”
Countless new apps and the roll-out of improved smartphones make the blending and blurring of our life roles increasingly challenging. Flexibility has become an integral part of daily life thanks to our devices.
We balance our personal demands by leaving early, arriving late, or slipping out of the office during the workday and then ironing out details of a business deal on our laptop once the dinner dishes are cleared.
Demasi says technology has transformed work into something we do, rather than only a place we go.
Miami Stonegate Bank executive Erin Knight feels empowered: “There are no more traditional business hours. I can keep deals moving along and take phone calls on the go, wherever I go.” At the same time, she can deal with family issues from her office. Through text messaging, she was able to get her mother an emergency doctor’s appointment with a client. “It took a few minutes to arrange, and she would have been suffering in pain.”
Of course, it has become more common than ever before to find yourself staying later at the office because you spent more time than expected on Facebook. Maybe we need to ask ourselves whether technology is to blame for overwork or our inability to set boundaries that's the problem.
Do you find that the blurring of lines has made your work life balance more stressful? Or do you think that being able to deal with work and personal issue both in the workplace and at home makes juggling life's demands easier?