Whatever Happened to Work Life Balance?

16 Aug

Recently, I have given a lot of thought to the concept of work life balance. I have wrestled with how best to present, at the recent Sage Summit conference, the ways in which small and midsized business leaders tell us they are changing the way they work.

Only four or five years ago when we explored SMB work attitudes in focus groups, we often heard one message loud and clear: Our business life is not our personal life.  Don’t think we live to work.

Half a decade later, it as though just the opposite happened. People seemed tied to their smart phones and tablets from dusk to dawn. Many individuals never leave their work behind as they stay on the job continually through email, social media and apps.

But has work life balance completely disappeared? Or has it simply been solved in a new and unexpected way?

I think it’s the latter. As we talk to SMB leaders, we hear that they actually welcome having access to their business anytime, anywhere. It lets them stay in touch even if they attend a son’s soccer game in the middle of the day. They can head home for a family dinner, knowing they still need to check in later that evening. They get a head start on key issues in the morning.

Personally, I commute to the office each morning and evening on a one-hour train ride from downtown Los Angeles to Irvine in Orange County.(Yes, there is mass transit in Southern California!) I can stay connected the entire time to wrap up key tasks and still arrive home in time to watch the evening news before dinner. Through it all, I continue to collaborate and be more effective.

In short, many people have abandoned the concept of strictly compartmentalizing their lives between work and personal. Instead, they let the two intermingle–grabbing time for each as it is needed and makes sense.

In a way, that was how people lived their lives for centuries before the industrial revolution forced people into time shifts. As a kid growing up on a farm in Wisconsin in the ‘50s, that was still how my parents lived their lives. The farming life and the family life were always fully intertwined.

For some, no doubt, the clearly segmented life is preferred. But as we see how individuals and businesses rush to adopt both mobile and web technology, it is also clear that for many, the intermingled life holds many attractions.

So how will business react to support those who wish to take advantage of the connected world?  At Sage, we’re exploring many ways in which our solutions can let you do that. If you want a view into the world we’re seeking to support, take a brief tour through this video we premiered at Sage Summit 2012. 




4 Responses to “Whatever Happened to Work Life Balance?”

  1. Tammy August 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    Dennis, I whole heatedly agree with you. By intertwining my family life and worklife together somehow it’s allowed me to give more of myself to both aspects of my life, be more productive and ultimately happier and more fulfilled. When I first got my iPad I really just thought of it as a toy, another smaller laptop. My iPad, iPhone and Internet access 23/7 have transformed my life. Business. Anywhere. Anytime. And I don’t have to pick between my family and a job I love.

  2. Brandi Good August 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    This is a great article – it’s going out to my fan asap! Every other blog is writing about how social media and technology is ruining out lives, so it’s nice to see a fresh perspective.

  3. Doug LaBahn August 17, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    As one of the many Sage employees that spent time listening our customers, they see the availability of Smartphones and Tablets as a way to have greater flexibility and work-life balance.

    For example, one Business Owner described he always arrived home late to his family dinner because he couldn’t leave the office until his most important customer communicated their order (via email or fax) for the next business day. So, he sat in his office waiting for the orders to arrive. Now, he leaves the office on-time and has access to the customer’s message when it arrives.

    I should mention that the Business Owner is in the Eastern Time Zone and the Customer is in the Pacific Time zone. So, the time zone difference has a lot to do with the complication. As we have become less bounded by geography and more customer service oriented, the new devices are resonating with customers because they can be anywhere they want to be (now) versus a few years ago when they had to be confined to their offices.

    By listening to our customers and responding with new services, we’re excited to create greater freedom for them to succeed.

  4. Paul Sweeney August 22, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    I agree completely. The new technologies allow me to go to my son’s games yet complete the work that needs doing. I step in and out of work throughout the day and evening so I can participate in both aspects of life.

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