Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Work-Life Balance

Not to keep pushing Fortune, but once again I've got to point out their work - the latest issue, besides having a terrific in-depth piece on the fall of Milberg Weiss (hee, hee), has an illuminating "How I Work" portrait of Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz (sorry; no link). I really like this feature - it's interesting how successful business people seem to have so many different ways of structuring their time.

One constant, however, seems to be a lack of balance between work and family time. This is a theme you see almost every month, whether it's Toyota's former chairman lamenting the lack of time spent with his children while they were growing up or PepsiCo's CEO flatly stating that balance doesn't exist for her. For anyone who has spent time around CEOs and other senior management types, this isn't shocking. Whether it's the job or the people who usually occupy it (or a little of both), obsessiveness seems to come with the territory. Unsurprisingly, Schwartz expresses a similar sentiment, but with a twist: "There is no line between personal life and professional life, especially if you care a lot about what you do. I used to really resent that, and then it became really freeing."

Freeing? That seems weird at first, but look at how Schwartz works - not cloistered in an office, but on the move, able to connect with employees and customers wherever broadband is available. If your work and life are interconnected, it's not so much about balance as it is about flow: Making the moves between personal, family and work activities as frictionless as possible. With broadband wherever you go, this integration becomes much easier. I'm guessing this is what Schwartz is getting at - the freeing feeling that you no longer need to sit at a desk all day; that's it's OK to spend a couple hours with your kids in the evening, knowing that you can shift some of your work to after their bedtime. This is a far more liberating attitude than the oft-heard complaint that technology is intrusive, pushing work into places it shouldn't be.

Obviously this doesn't work for all jobs, but for many corporate types it should. I've tried to work that way since as far back as the pre-broadband days, and I welcome any technology that makes it easier for me to be successful while still having a personal life. We all need time in the office to collaborate and connect, and we need to spend a certain amount of time every day getting our work accomplished. What's no longer true is that we need to do it all in one place or all in one chunk of time during the day. That is freeing.

1 comment:

Chris Selland said...

Great post Seth - right on target