Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Work-Life Seepage

Sometimes I receive emails from friends in my work inbox. Sometimes I receive calls at nine pm on a Thursday night about a work issue. I worked on Saturday and Sunday nights on a strategy document I can't find the headspace to concentrate on at work, but then earlier today I nipped off at the end of a meeting at three pm and spent the rest of the afternoon in the pub.

A lot is talked about work-life balance but not enough, in my opinion, about the creeping crossover between the two. Whether through incessant crackberry usage (at its most infuriating intra meeting - work/work seepage at its worst), or the now ubiquitous loud personal call taken in the office whether to partner, "hilarious" friend or needy relative, the lines have been irrevocably blurred.

Mother Brown, in her role as secretary for an international shipping firm, never took personal calls unless it was an emergency and certainly didn't take random time out of her day to choose paint colours (as I did last week). Where your attention was devoted during set times of the day was black and white. Yes, there were times when Mrs B invented an extra relative that had to die in order for her to take a day off at short notice, but this was before the right to parental leave.

Who loses? Who gains? Have family-friendly policies and technologies enabled our company gang masters to leave us stranded on the cockle beds or do we not know a duckdown duvet when we see one?

Sometimes I feel like the acceptance of personal life intruding into work hours is like an updated version of the once-a-year Mothers Day home visit that servants once enjoyed - something that makes us feel better that we're actually in touch with our home lives when all the while we're actually tied physically, and perhaps more importantly, mentally, to our workstations. But read that back, these people saw their families once a year - so what the hell are we complaining about?

OK, times aren't as hard, but I have to support the fact that the demarcation that my 9 to 5 mother enjoyed had its strengths, maintaining boundaries for both home and life surely the path to sanity. But then, being able to be in touch with work allows us the sanity of more flexible hours, some peace of mind for control freaks like myself, and does loosen the ties from our actual desks. It's just that life for us guilt-ridden-kinda-Catholic-but-gotta-whole-lotta-Puritan workaholics now involves desperate over-compensation for the time spent at work on personal matters.

I suggest we all take an audit of the time we spend on work whilst at home and vice versa and then actively readdress the imbalance - and communicate acceptable boundaries - in order to to minimize work/life seepage.

What I do need help with, however, is quite how to classify the grey area of beer-sodden conversations in the pub that are solely about work (which may be responsible for any lack of clarity/slight ranting tone in today's post).


Anonymous said...

working on a saturday night is very sad.

Louise Brown said...

Fair point.