Work Life Balance. Does it Exist?
April 14, 2009 1 Comment
This past April a former colleague of mine commented on my Facebook wall “You’re still working hard, I see”. Gasp! Really – she noticed that just from my status postings?!
And of course, I could have just as easily called this posting “My husband is a work-widower”. But then I’d have to explain that he can’t complain since he’s a retail manager, and he himself works way too much.
Anyway, I worked with this woman 20 years ago (no, I’m not that old!) when I started my career at Lotus. I had a great office overlooking the Charles River with an awesome, incredible view of Boston. And she’s right. Too often I did see the Boston city lights reflect on the Charles River at night from my office.
I guess there’s a part of me that would like to think I’m not that same workaholic I was back then. But this recent program, and her comment, has made me reflect on the harsh reality – I haven’t changed that much. (What’s that program you ask? Well it’s bringing the reality of Enterprise 2.0 to our company, of course!)
And here’s where I guess I feel I need to justify my action.
Back then I worked for a company that was defining markets that didn’t exist.
They were building products to meet problems businesses (or individuals) didn’t even know they had. They were coining the market ‘groupware’ before any business cared about software that brought teams together (ok, now we have fancier terms like collaboration tools or social software or Enterprise 2.0!).
I was a business lead in getting these tools to work for our global teams. (And funny, as ‘global’ as Lotus was then, it was no where near the scale we see now!).
I can’t tell you how many ‘databases’ I had on my desktop. I personally oversaw the requirements and design of databases to meet business problems. Getting someone assigned to develop a database was easy; we had people getting certified in the company left and right, all willing to help you out. I chartered my share of databases that truly shaved lead time in our product release lifecycle and we certainly made sharing (and yes, reporting!) easier. At the time I’m sure I could have told you how many days we shaved off of one process or another or how we saved cost, because the work we did we could track that stuff.
In my last year or so at Lotus/IBM (it’s been awhile, so give me some slack on exact timing!) I remember sitting in at a company meeting watching our executives demo and discuss a new acquisition that was going to revolutionize the next wave of collaboration for business. At the time I remember thinking – why would I want those pesky pop up messages from my colleagues on my computer screen when I was just trying to get work done?!! Working at a product development company you were always the product development team’s guinea pig – so of course we used Sametime before it was released to the marketplace. Yes, it was ‘cool’. But I never thought then that it would be such a “critical-can’t-live-without-it” business tool that it is for me today.
So why am I sharing this?
It always helps to feel passionate about what you do. And I guess when there’s passion it’s easy to put your all into it. It never feels like work if you love what you do.
So maybe this is all coming full circle for me. I get ‘collaboration’; it’s in my ‘blood’ so to speak. I worked at a company that built a whole market around this business problem. I worked at a company that valued ‘team work’ before collaboration became such a critical business skill. Or maybe I must have drunk the Kool-Aid early on.
I am jazzed to see the promise of a new generation of collaboration tools
We have fancy names now. Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0. Social Media. Social Software. Whatever you want to call it, this new generation of tools finally will connect so many points together. I can find a person. I can find a document. I can find a community. And so on….
Yes, I’m working long hours – and yes, folks who know me too well apparently just expect this to be “par for the course” for me. And yes, I can still see the nightfall way too often over the front yard of my house from my home office window.
But really, I see my inability to keep a healthy work life balance recently as justifiable in my mind. We are on the verge of seeing two decades worth of ‘groupware’ promise really becoming a reality. And we are seeing a new generation of companies and products delivering on that initial promise.
Bringing people together – across geographies, across business units, across functional lines – have never been more important. And yes, never as much fun.
This is an exciting journey for me personally. I work for a Fortune 500 company who is making a bold move in this area. I am grateful that my hard work at making the business case, justifying the journey and planning the effort is paying off.