You often hear people talk about the need for work/life balance, but too often those people also want it to be an either/or proposition. In the past, it’s true, you were generally either working or “off.” But with the technology available to us today, the line between the two is easily blurred.
That’s what’s so frustrating about executives at various companies who think your nose should be getting worn down by the grindstone every second while you’re on “their” time.
Eventually, when the Baby Boomers lose their stranglehold on the executive suites across the United States, we’ll see a major shift in the workplace environment. That’s why the current economic doldrums are maddening. Too many people who should be looking forward to retirement are, instead, looking in disbelief at their 401K statements and staying put at the office as a roadblock to progress.
I’m 41 years old, which makes me the right age to understand what the Boomers ahead of me are offering and what the Gen Y folks coming up fast behind me are seeking. My generation, Gen X, is that bridge between the old “company time” and “personal time” style of management and the new workplace environment the Gen Y types are demanding. Imagine an environment where you’re productive at your peak times for personal productivity. Imagine an environment where you can transition smoothly between a work project, a personal email, an online networking activity and back to a different work project without fearing the wrath of Human Resources falling upon you.
That’s the kind of environment that’s going to become the norm in the future, and I hope the future comes sooner rather than later. If someone has an issue with an employee’s productivity or quality of work, that should be dealt with. But that should be what happens if it’s because someone is spending too much time on Twitter, or on their coffee break, or standing around chatting with coworkers.
My point is that there are many jobs where it shouldn’t matter how or when you get your work done as long as it gets done correctly and by the deadline. Instead, too many companies are insisting that they keep employees chained to the time clock, focused only on work for 8 hours a day and longing to escape as soon as the clock ticks to 5 p.m. Employers who think people should only be “working” on “company time” are missing out on a new breed of workers who are interested in keeping a work/life balance that is more of a work/life blend. They are losing out on having employees who understand the difference between work and personal time, but can find satisfaction from both regardless of what time of day it is.
I mentioned earlier that at my age, I can serve as a bridge between the two management styles. But, of course, that’s from my perspective. Maybe I’m just seen as a troublemaker by one generation and someone unwilling to push hard enough for rapid change by another. What do you think?