The 'work life balance' (or lack of) is over. It's all about 'blending' – but can you mix business with pleasure?
I’ve been hearing a lot lately about work-life ‘blending’. Do you know about it? It’s the new Thing apparently that will save us from our constant failure to create a work life balance. The effort to ‘balance’ inevitably consists of see-sawing too much one way or another and is almost impossible to sustain for any length of time – all that constant metaphorical tensing, pushing and pulling, trying to hold still in a happy balanced moment is hard work and goddam impossible for most of us.
Karen Blackett, CEO bigwig of MediaCom (the biggest media agency in the UK no less), has banned talk of work life balance from her office and has pretty much invented this idea of ‘blending’, creating apps and pilot schemes encouraging team members to explain to their managers what’s important to them in life, and how they can create a ‘blend’ of what is important to them at work to stay motivated and happy.
Rather than a push and pull of work v home and trying with all your might to keep them separate, blending is about one not taking precedence over the other. If you’re a nasty old cynic (c’est moi) you may struggle with the slight right on-ness of the idea, but I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit because I’m sick of beating myself up for working too hard and forgetting birthday parties, having a fridge like a student etc. And strangely, slowly, almost without realising it, I think I’ve been moving towards a more fluid idea of work/life myself.
- I recently put a self-imposed ban on working before 9am so that I can be around properly for my kids in the morning. Time was when I’d wake at 6am, and immediately start writing, and boring stuff like hugging, talking, eating breakfast, helping with homework and piano practise was ignored. Choose life, choose motherhood! Well, I’ve lost 15 hours of my working morning with that family-oriented stunt, but no, nopey, nope, I’m not going to see it that way. That would be see-sawing. Instead, I’ve gained 15 hours with my kids that I didn’t have, the family is happier, and I’m less guilty. If I have to pick up my work in the evening a bit in front of the telly that’s fine.
- I work from home, around my family, on my terms. I could get an office. God knows it would be less chaotic and I’d no longer have to work with Weetabix stuck to my computer. But working from home is the ultimate worklife blend. The kids come in, sneak some biscuits, sit on my lap for five minutes and tell me about their day, then I carry on working and they spin off to do their thing. It’s the kind of set up that the office-bound dream of. I’ve banned myself from moaning about spreadsheets on my kitchen walls. I’m embracing the goddam blend!
- Mr Muddy is now working at home too. We’ve become a modern Bonnie & Clyde, sharing the chores, pick ups, cooking, kids drop offs and skidding into a brave new world that could end in a shoot out (well, you imagine spending all day and all night every day with your other half) but also feels strangely stress free and equal and the future.
Have I totally nailed this work-life blendy thing? Er, *pltwawath* (sorry, I just choked on my halo). No of course not, nowhere near!
Because despite having three gym memberships (long story) I don’t use any of them and the Muddy gut still exhibits more wobble than a jelly in a wind tunnel.
I haven’t travelled anywhere interesting since 2005.
Five years in, I still haven’t ‘done up’ my house.
I still can’t be arsed to blow dry my hair.
So I think it’s fair to say, my blending is definitely patchy. But I can’t help but think it’s a cool thing to aspire to. To feed all those elements of your life, and not to the detriment of other things that matter to you. Or if you’re a boss, to help your staff feel happy, empowered and fulfilled in their own lives.
What do you think? How do you feel about your work-life balance? What elements of your life do you want to ‘blend’ or do you think it’s a whole load of Americanised guff?! Let me know what you think in the comment box below, I’d love to know your thoughts.