Monday, March 23, 2009

Embrace Chaos; Forget "Work/Life Balance"

Don’t let the title throw you off. Notice the quotes enclosing the Work/Life Balance? Yes, its time we all forget about the traditional “Work/Life Balance” concepts that have been ingrained into our nervous systems. With Technology gaining more and more prominence in the way we lead our lives, it has become near impossible to keep personal and professional lives apart. At least that’s what this new Forrester article titled “Embracing Chaos Is Smarter Than Seeking An Elusive Work/Life Balance” says.

In essence, the article neatly talks about how “Work/Life balance” previously meant a clear time divide – the so called 9 – 5 work culture and after that personal time. But today this is not possible especially for information or knowledge workers. With work roles getting more demanding, hazier, and Technology populism (Google that!) playing havoc, employees can no more be strict about leaving office dot 5 or 6. They are ready to stretch when required and don’t hesitate to take off early on a lean day. They check office email while having dinner and make vacation arrangements while at office. The line between personal and professional work becomes less and less defined while at the same time employees ensure neither is compromised or affected by the other. Agreed. In fact, I loved reading that article. BUT sounds like utopia for me. That is from where I stand.

  • Give me an office where entry and exit are not tracked by swipe cards
  • Give me an office where every other site is not restricted and every move the employee makes on his or her computer is not monitored
  • Give me an office where the manager is more concerned about quality of work and timely delivery and less about your presence in office
  • Give me a cubicle where I’m allowed to keep my desk the way I want without maintaining a clean desk policy (not even papers allowed, mind you) and where I can listen to music if I feel like it (of course, with a head phone – But some managers have problems with that as well, let me tell you. Strange world, this one!)
  • Give me an office where I can install instant messengers to chat with colleagues across the World without incurring additional costs for the company– and if that lets my friends see me while am online and ping me, let not the company go “uh uh”
  • Give me an office culture where I can talk to my colleague who sits across from me with out the manager going “tch, tch”
  • Give me an office where work output matters and not appearances

I will gladly sacrifice my 9 – 5 attitude. Else, tough luck dude. My 6’o clock cab is waiting for me and I don’t miss it for any reason.

But as I said, this is a strange world. Most of what I said above does not apply to counter parts who sit in the West (for who or on whom this article was written I guess). They are free to clutter their desk anyway which way they want and they are free to visit adult sites if they wish. And let’s not forget – they can talk about going to a Dentist’s appointment with their sons and daughters in an international conference call with ten participants from ten different time zones. And all this within the same company I say - so you can’t get away with saying different company, different policies. So this is only for the offshore – you see, we got to maintain appearances along with other important things.

I did experience utopia just once. Or maybe twice. At my first and second job. Small company, smaller team, bosses who trusted you to get the work done without the need to look over your shoulders. Less irritated managers. Compared to my experiences since then, I can only say I learnt and imbibed the concept of “Work/Life Balance” much later. Much much later.

Ha! memory sure does paint the past rose, doesn’t it?

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