It has not been that long since we split ourselves into “work” roles and “life” roles. I think the work-life split grew from the same seed as the Cartesian split. For some individuals compartmentalization of these roles was (and probably is still) helpful – I’m not asking that they give it up. But I do think organizations need to give up the notion that everyone wants to live/work that way and the notion that it is a good way to do business. I am an expert in knowing when I do my best work and where I do my best work. My peak hours of productivity are not scheduled between 8 and 5.
When I’m collaborating with someone across the globe – what difference does it make if I’m in the office or at home? I’d rather leave midday to go see my step-son’s school play and work later or take a break to walk around if I’m trying to figure something out. That way, I avoid the guilt (and the negative effect that has on productivity), make better use of my peak working times, and I am more loyal to my organization. More and more books are starting to plow the old fields of ideas about work, which is promising (Interested? Read Ellen Kossek and Brenda Lautsch’s CEO of Me or Cathleen Benko and Anne Weisberg’s Mass Career Customization).
I once had a colleague who was the kind that arrived promptly at 8am and left exactly at 5pm – with one hour for lunch in between. Upon my arrival to the office around 9am, she chided me “vacation day, huh?” It got to me. I was tired. I tried to get my point across in a joking way “Sure, if working until 2am last night counts as a vacation – then yeah. You know when youleave at 5pm, not everyone’s day stops. And not all work happens at work.”
The days of managing by doing a head-count periodically throughout the day are gone. Being in the office is not a good proxy for getting work done. We have to get clearer about results and the value we create as individuals and organizations. And that means paying attention to both the individual and the organization in new ways.