What is a truly effective work/life balance and how can you achieve one? How do you do so in a technology-driven world without losing the benefits of inter-personal connection? The truth is that the definition of balance is a little different in this case. It’s more about integration or inter-weaving the elements of personal and professional life and these change at different life stages.
In your early twenties your social circle tends to revolve around work, so they are co-dependent. You work a lot and you spend recreational time with the people you work with, eating meals in or around the office, etc. As you progress through the stages of life such as marriage, having a family and even later to empty-nesting, your work/life balance fluctuates. Your time gets spent with a smaller circle of people, but the time spent is more valuable. The demands on your time are more profound and you have to find ways to integrate them together.
As you progress up in management or as you launch a small business, there are more requirements to be flexible as your career is no longer a 9-to-5 experience and work is sure to come into conflict with the demands on personal time and family. Most people put family first, but the truth is you have to be willing to combine. You might take some calls on vacation from the confines of your hotel room.
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You might review a document and share your thoughts while on holiday. And you almost always have to be willing to jump on a call later in the evening, potentially ducking out of a recital or sneaking off mid-soccer match. Much like the rest of the world, things are not so cut and dried. Priorities may shift, even though your preferences might not.
Luckily, we operate in a world where “balance” can be achieved through advancements in technology. Conference calls have become video calls and most video calling platforms are now integrating other tools that increase the opportunity for collaboration. Most importantly, all of these solutions are available on mobile platforms.
In full disclosure, I work at Cisco on the Webex platform. Webex has been around for a while and is the leader in collaboration technology, but most people don’t fully understand the ways a platform like Webex can be used to create that balance and integrate your personal and professional lives. There are other platforms too, but I will admit I’m a little biased.
First off, consider video calls. Video is the best platform for getting work done. Phone calls are fine, but you accomplish so much more by looking someone in the eyes when you speak with them. Video calls are also a less-stressful way to meet because you don’t have to sit on a 4-hour plane ride or sit in hour-long traffic to get to the meeting. You can take a call from the comfort of your office, or even from the sidelines of a soccer field. Video creates a better human connection, and human connection leads to relationships that lead to better business productivity.
Video calls and other tools
What’s more, that connection can be furthered by being open, honest and forthcoming. Letting the person you are speaking with know they’re important and that you are willing to interrupt your personal time to meet with them can be a measure of value in a relationship. Plus, you don’t have to risk missing your kids score the winning goal!
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Integrated messaging is another tool that allows you to have that work/life balance. Integrated messaging means you have access to documents, presentations and more right in the context of a conversation. You can edit, comment and engage in real-time, with your whole team experiencing the interaction. You can follow the train of thought and be significantly more productive because you don’t have to explain the entire path.
AI and Virtual assistants are also a way of increasing that work/life balance because they can take some of the more mundane elements of your job off your plate and allow you to focus on the “big stuff”. More often we are seeing real-time transcription and virtual note-taking tools integrated into video and phone calls, enabling action items to be immediately pushed into workflow for follow-up. These tools mean less time on follow-up and more time on actual production of next steps.
New tools to assist work/life balancemanagement
The biggest kicker for all of these aforementioned advancements comes because these tools are available through unified, mobile-based apps. Your phone is with you no matter where you go and these tools are in the palm of your hand. Voice-activated features like virtual assistants are integrated into mobile devices with large screen real estate and allow you to access documents and video calls from wherever you might be. This means you are no longer tethered to your desk. You are free to roam and go where the demands of the day might take you.
Of course, being this accessible 24/7 means you have to also put some parameters around when, where and how you work. All of these tools are excellent for improving communication, but you also need to communicate your on and off hours to the rest of your team. Regardless of whether your team is 5 people or 500, communication is the key to optimizing productivity with balance and personal time. You have to let people know when you are definitely not available and they have to understand and respect those requests. If you are able to take advantage of the technology, and you are able to communicate properly, then the interwoven nature of your personal and professional lives will be truly balanced and your happiness and productivity will skyrocket.