One night after overtime, as I was about to leave the office, I heard someone whispering gibberish words outside my room. When I looked outside, it was one of my Account Directors making faces and weird sounds. I thought she’s gone mad after a harsh meeting that evening.
I rushed to console her but she only gave me a really big smile and a loud shriek. She said sorry, and when I looked at her computer, I saw a baby with the cutest smile waving at me. She was just having a Skype session with her baby. What a big relief!
Technology at work – this is a glimpse of what the future of working looks like. If you can’t bring your family to work, you can still be with them through technology. More and more platforms are enabling us to connect with our loved ones anytime, anywhere.
I understand that as a parent, the objective is to provide for the family and at the same time provide quality moments with them. If you have an excellent time management skill then you’ll never have a problem. I know someone who can present in a pitch in the morning, attend her kid’s recital at lunch, then still have time to go to the gym, and be at home in the evening to cook dinner for her family. The problem comes when you need to choose an important meeting at the office over a dance recital of your kid because your calendar is already full. Would you choose the meeting and be a disappointment to your kid, or choose the recital and be branded as someone not dependable?
The call for work-life balance is more evident now than ever before. As we move faster, we need to keep up with the work pace to have more quality time with our family. It is no longer a choice between the two, and therefore, technology moves faster to catch up with the changing lifestyle. It is working harder to help us keep the balance. You can cook food now while still be at the office, help your kids do their homework while driving home, book a flight while still in a meeting, order flowers for your coming anniversary dinner date a week from now in the comfort of your office pantry.
Technology is the friend we’ve all been waiting for. It takes some getting used to but it is also getting more user-friendly every day. Our computer, mobile, and other gadgets help us connect with one another faster. It used to be email, then SMS, text chat, and now video chat etc. For employees with family, these innovations are blessings. The need to choose between work and life goes down immediately. Now you can be at work and still attend the recital through FB live, or help your kid with his homework during your coffee break. You can also send messages to your loved ones during a meeting.
Creatives are always thinking, when you’re at home you’re thinking, during your downtime at the office, you’re still thinking. But since technology allows you to work anywhere and submit ideas anytime, technology can become your best friend. You can just go to a café to think of ideas. And when you’re done, your boss is just an email away for approval. Then you can Viber the ideas to your Art Director and get layouts done ASAP, then have a Skype meeting with accounts to present the ideas. And while taking that final sip of your coffee, your cellphone vibrates and receives a SMS from Accounts saying the ideas are already approved by clients. You smile knowing your best friend didn’t let you down. You open your Messenger to congratulate your team then tweet feel-good messages with #blessed and #happy.
Suddenly, you move from just being BFF’s with technology to being lovers, and you expect a lot more from this relationship.
Some ad agencies have started to implement work-from-home-days, like Work Anywhere Wednesdays, to further enhance the experience of work-life balance. It used to be technology bringing your family to work but now it’s technology bringing your work to your home. These benefits are well received by most employees. It gives you more family time and a bit of control over your life. Now you can attend your kid’s recital, cook that complicated recipe your family has been requesting, have lunch with friends, go shopping, or just basically relax and have that “me” time you’ve been dying for. Until you hear that familiar SMS beep while you’re putting your baby to sleep, see 100 office emails in your inbox marked high priority, see 10 missed calls from your boss with 1-minute intervals each, see 50 messages in your office Viber thread with crying emojis, and yes, 5 tweets from your clients with #emergency, it’s only then that you realize work-life balance is just an illusion.
Without knowing it, work is now intruding in to your family and “me” time. Technology is now acting like a clingy lover, something you’re starting to hate but can’t live without. And sooner or later, your BFF and lover becomes your worst enemy.
You can’t completely separate work from your life. You can’t achieve total balance ever. One has got to give sometimes if not most of the time. It will be more frustrating than it used to be.
The key is accepting that it’s about the integration of work + life more than achieving balance.
It’s about two worlds working in harmony than working independently from each other. From being an expert in time management, you’ll find yourself doing two or more things from both sides at the same time. Your “me” time is also your time with your baby through Skype, your gym time is also your time to chat with your husband, and while typing away a script, it is also your time to monitor the kids playing using your mobile phone controlled CCTV at home.
Integration is easier and more realistic than achieving a true work-life balance. Your life is not as simple as black and white. The point is we should find ways for our work and personal life to co-exist rather than believing they need to be mutually exclusive. The bottom line is, the idea of balance that our industry is trying to force upon us doesn’t actually work with this thing called life. Once you realize this, you can begin your love affair with technology again with more realistic expectations. Stop feeling guilty for not achieving the ideal work-life balance. But instead, work on what makes YOU feel balanced.