Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was getting ready for a media appearance when the people around him began snapping pictures of him. He said:
“What do you get out of all these pictures? I mean, what exactly do you do with them? I don’t get this new world, everybody’s taking pictures. When do you have time to live? Everybody is taking pictures of each other. I don’t buy it. I am the only one here without all of these electronic devices. I am a free man and you’re all slaves, slaves to your gadgets.”
I happened to be watching that on my cell phone.
I think that for most of us, there is a ring of truth in what the Prime Minister said, and it brings up a good point: In this age of mobility, have the lines between work and home become so blurred that there is no line anymore?
There are, of course, plenty of great things to be said for the mobile revolution. People like being able to work when and where they want. They like not being tied to a desk and they like the ability to get work done outside of the traditional 9-to-5 workday.
The problem is, it’s almost too easy to take work with you when you leave the office. Whether it is checking emails during a movie or joining a conference call while on vacation, more than a few of us have no life at all anymore, and it’s not healthy.
Having a work-life balance is important. In fact, it’s probably more important today than ever before. After all, how can you be a good boss or good employee when you never get (or take) a break? Having time away from work rejuvenates people both mentally and physically.
Consider this from the New York Times (February 9, 2013): “In 2006, the accounting firm Ernst & Young did an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings from supervisors (on a scale of one to five) improved by 8 percent. (20 hours more vacation equaled 16 percent, and so on.) Frequent vacationers were also significantly less likely to leave the firm.”
So the fact is, ironically, all of this plugged-in working just may make us less productive, rather than more. Productivity often means that people get solid, uninterrupted, useful stretches of work done. However, if you are always plugged in, those long stretches are harder to come by, both because you may become accustomed to working in shorter, digital stints, as well as the fact that you might just get sick of working so much.
The second irony is that you probably have no one to blame but yourself. If you work for yourself, you are the boss. So be a good one. Give yourself a break, literally and figuratively. If you work for someone else, it is likely true that they do not expect you to be sending out work emails at 11:30 at night.
So, what is the answer? How do you restore some sanity to your work –life imbalance?
You know the answer.
Turn it off. Silence your cell phone, close your laptop, and turn off your tablet.
The only one who is going to create that line is you. And the thing is, no one will really notice that you have decided that there is a time for work and a time for play, except for the people who count most – your family, your friends, and yourself.
Yes, of course you can and will work when you are home, and that’s great; that’s the beauty of the mobile revolution. But, in the end, maybe mom knew best. When looking to create a better work – life balance in the digital age, remember her words of wisdom: “Moderation in all things, dear.”
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.