Guest blog from Richard Alford, Network Group Executive Director and Managing Director of Black Bear IT Solutions
I called into my Mum’s last week for a coffee, yes it was 10:30 on Wednesday and it was not a day off, but I’m working from home so that’s ok isn’t it?
It got me thinking about my Dad, and the way he used to work. He’d set off to the office on a Monday morning and (as he worked away) would not be home until Friday evening. He’d work at the office from 8am to 7pm, long days and something so many of us are used to. You wouldn’t dare call him during working hours, unless it was an emergency! The difference was that his work stayed at work, and his home life stayed at home. He sadly passed away in 2000 so I can only imagine how he might have handled the advent of smart phones and the “always on” society we live in!
When I started working as a teacher my hours were set and my holiday defined, yes I might bring work home sometimes, but still the work/life balance was set. However I found when I started to run my own business that you needed a large amount of self-discipline to keep the balance between work and home.
Before the pandemic I would work in the office Monday to Friday, keeping regular hours (sometimes rather long), but would still check my e-mails on my phone from 6am to 11pm… sometimes more if I was awake in the night! I would expect my family to understand if I had to take a work phone call during the evening or on holiday, but felt guilty if I spoke to them at work or sneaked off from the office early. Why did I feel guilty, well it seems that in our heads work must come first and “life” comes second.
When the pandemic hit we moved to home working, and suddenly there was no “office hours” you just worked when you needed to, around helping the children with school work, walking the dogs, etc. Every hour became a work hour, but also a family hour. All structure was in danger of being lost, but is that a bad thing?
My life like so many of us is of course not as clear cut as “work” and “home”. I run Black Bear IT Solutions, am on the NG Exec, I’m a First Responder for the ambulance service and have a couple of other businesses…. as well as a family and a smallholding! I must decide how to spend each hour to ensure no one part of my life takes over the rest, and perhaps the hardest thing… not feel stressed or guilty about my choices.
At the moment I’ve not found the answer to how much time every part of my life “deserves”, but I do know that by being flexible with my time I’m often working late into the evening, while still being there for my family more than I have been in the past, and I’m loving it.
I don’t feel guilty for taking a long lunch break, for mowing the lawn on a Monday morning or for taking a work call at 9pm. Technology allows us to still be there for our staff and clients, answer e-mails from the middle of a field or join a Zoom call from my tractor.
So is change good, yes there is no point us trying to go back to how my Dad worked, it is the past. Just make sure it is change you decide to make your life better, let technology and the “new normal” improve your life and not enslave you to the ping of an e-mail or the dong of a WhatsApp. After all do you live to work, or work to live?!