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.