THE BLURRING OF BOUNDARIES – getting work and life back into balance

There has been talk of work/life balance in organisations for decades now.

When it first started, it was because people had begun to feel a pressure to stay late at work, to try and finish off their tasks, with the consequence that they had less time and energy for their home life.

Alas, instead of being an improved story now, the story has got a lot worse. With the advent of mobile phones as a necessary piece of kit for everybody, the real intrusion into home life began. No longer was the workday over when you set off for home. People began using their travelling time to make calls, instead of using it to wind down from the day. And having the work mobile switched on till mid-evening became the norm, in case someone needed to contact you.

Even that was not deemed to be enough of an intrusion. When laptops became widely available, and smartphones, communication by email also became the norm – we call it communication, although we all know that it is generally poor as a means of conveying messages and resolving issues.

Now the intrusion into home life was even more pervasive – we saw the ‘important’ message from the boss on our smartphone halfway through our dinner, and felt obliged to sort it out, or at least email a response, or a message to others who needed to be involved. What’s more, we were tempted into spending an hour or two trying to clear that damn in-box during the evening or at weekends, because we knew we wouldn’t have time at work.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? No, not if we did have work/life balance. Ricardo Semler wrote a book called ‘The Seven Day Weekend’ suggesting that, if we answer emails at the weekend, we should also be able to go to the movies on a Monday afternoon. In other words, if we are genuinely going to work flexibly, then that needs to be a two-way agreement with our workplace: rather then stretching our hours, it should mean that we manage our work/life balance in a more creative and flexible way for ourselves as well.

Sadly, very few people have felt able to adopt this way of seeing it. Instead, we are resigned to less time for home life, and have learnt to respond, like Pavlov’s dogs, to the ping of yet another email or voice message.

This means that even when they are at home people have their attention and thinking drawn towards work. And even if responding doesn’t take them long, it pulls them out of relaxing into their home life and allowing themselves to re-energise properly.

The blurring of the boundaries between work and home life has crept up on us: the intrusion has gradually increased, so that we have come to accept each stage as normal. But it’s not!! It’s not normal, and it’s not healthy for you or your organisation.

The insistence on work/life balance was not for altruistic reasons. It was because people need to have a proper break from work, and a rounded perspective on life, to be able to perform at their best at work. We are not machines that you can switch on whenever you want and get the same performance.

The effects of the blurring of these boundaries are: the cumulative exhaustion of people; the decline of happy home relationships; and poor reaction and decision-making at work, due to tiredness and resentment.

Isn’t it time you took back control of your world, and re-established some boundaries for yourself? After all, most of us are not working in places where taking time out away from work things will result in a disaster!

So, just stop and consider the following:

  1. Your journey to work: can you use it to get yourself in a positive mood for your workday?
  2. Your journey home: can you use it to wind down, re-energise yourself, and get ready to really be at home with your loved ones?
  3. Your laptop: can you leave it at work, or at the least allocate only a set period of time that you use it at home?
  4. Your smartphone: can you switch it off by 7 pm at the latest, and leave it switched off and have a whole weekend free sometimes?
  5. And if you can’t do any of these things, can you therefore go to the movies on a Monday afternoon?!!

Think for a moment about what is going to happen if you don’t do this to take back some control of your world: the intrusion will continue to grow – and may even be on your watch or TV screen, or even under your skin in a few years’ time! You will make those poor reactions/decisions that lead to more problems, because you are tired. Your family will give up on trying to involve you in their lives. And your inbox still won’t be empty!

Now compare this with what will happen if you do take back some control: some people may object to your lack of 24/7 availability, but they do get over it, particularly if you are clear about when you are available, and you work effectively in that time. Your family will love the ceasing of the constant interruption to life with them. And you will actually have some time to relax for a change!

Which would you prefer?!!!

We hope that you use this update to just take a little time to notice how blurred your boundaries between work and home have become and take back a little time for you, and your family.

Why? Because YOU deserve it!!

All our Love

Jo and Di xxx

About Jo Clarkson

Jo Clarkson is the CEO of Meta and a frequent writer of the blog.

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