|‘Work life balance’ is something that we have talked about for years – how can we achieve that perfect equilibrium between our professional and personal life? It is a question that has come into sharp focus now as what we have thought about as perhaps entirely separate worlds have merged: helping out with learning before joining a conference call. Setting up a workspace in a hastily created space in the corner of the lounge. Struggling with technology as a family member walks into view on a Skype call.
For many people, this new arrangement will no doubt have posed some challenges, especially in the early phase when we were all adapting – how many of us sat talking on mute whilst we struggled to work out in-call volume (just me?) And how many of us too might have found difficulty in creating structure and finding focus in this new set up?
But now, a few weeks down the line, and this new way of working becomes a little bit more of the norm, what are we learning that we could take forward when all this is over?
· That there are efficiencies to be found in the use of technology?
· That there are practices we were carrying out before that feel unnecessary?
· That face to face meetings aren’t always the best way of connecting with people?
· That there are different ways of doing things that we hadn’t thought of before?
· That work is what we do and not where we go?
· And that there is no such thing as work and life – there is just life?
The fact is that we have thought about work and life as separate entities for years but the truth is that what we have now could perhaps be referred to as just ‘life’: sometimes we work, sometimes we do other tasks. Sometimes we spend time on the phone to a colleague, and sometimes we sit and enjoy a conversation with our family.
By acknowledging that these two worlds do not have to be in constant competition, that we are entirely capable of combining professional and personal priorities as one may well make working much easier in the future.
Circumstance has set our thinking free and allowed us to come up with innovative ideas and solutions which might not have been considered possible just a few short months ago. And this creative rethink may well allow us to work differently in future. More flexibly, more remotely, and with greater recognition and kindness for the differing priorities that require our attention at any one time.
Of course, in whatever ideas and best practice we take forward, it is vital that how we work in future allows us to retain that sense of connection and belonging with our colleagues, our teams, our organisations. But we are already learning that there are so many different ways to do that too.
And so finally, what we might find is that this eternal struggle we have talked about for years could be resolved in finding that the things we think of as ‘work’ and the things that we think of as ‘personal’ can be done in symmetry under one banner: life.