A little while ago I was asked to speak on the panel at an event on work life balance.
I was pretty nervous but the two glasses of wine helped, and I ended up taking such a lot away from the event. It was so interesting to listen to others journeys and challenges in finding this elusive work life thing.
And the truth is it’s been on my mind a good bit since then. Why is it so difficult to find the sweet spot, the point where our work compliments our life and vice versa. I mean, we’re all on the same page here right? As employees we know we need it, as employers we know it’s important, so why aren’t we all walking round with cheesy grins on our face, knowing we are the enlightened generation that’s nailed it?
Truthfully there are many reasons, I feel I could write a whole book on this topic not just a blog, but there is one thing in particular that has been agitating me recently, one thing that to me is a clear trespass of work into our life space and unfortunately, unlike vampires, this infringement doesn’t need an invitation to enter your home, it only needs your phone number.
So what is it? WhatsApp!
Yes, you heard me right, WhatsApp. That innocuous little icon on your phone.
How you feel when you see that red 1 sitting there letting you know someone has messaged you?
Relaxed, chilled, happy, maybe even a bit excited, because WhatsApp is a communication method used by your family, your friends, people you trust. It is more personal than messenger because these people are important enough for you to have given them your number. It is a safe, 100% “life” communication channel. (Ok, I get those messages may not be good all the time, but the not good is still related to your life).
But today I read a comment on LinkedIn from a recruiter telling candidates that they should make sure their WhatsApp photo is professional because potential employers might check you out.
Really? Honestly? Before you offer me a job that I’ve nailed the interview for, that I’m eminently qualified for, that I have great references for, you’re going to snoop on my WhatsApp profile photo and turn me down because I’m knocking back a Jaeger? Does this really happen?
Why should “work” be allowed to dictate the face we portray to our friends and family, how we behave and interact outside of work is, quite frankly, none of work’s business.
In a past job, WhatsApp was used as the communication method of choice. No longer did the little red 1 elicit a positive response, rather it brought about the anxiety of a telling off around the corner, the fear of unexpected work on the horizon or a crisis needing resolution. And of course, there are no office hours with WhatsApp, those messages roll in over the weekend, into the evening, when you’re sitting watching telly with the family. And you can’t stop them without also stopping your “life” chat as well.
At a time when communication is easier than it has ever been, it is tempting to forget the need for our people to have their own space, a place that we are not invited.
Often infringements in this space are unintentional, a quick WhatsApp on a Saturday night because we/they/boss/colleague just thought of something they might forget by Monday, has just caused work to trespass into that person’s life.
Be it serious, good, bad or insignificant the act of that message landing has caused that person to step out of “life” and step into “work”.
It may only last for a second and be gone, or it may cause the laptop to be cracked out for the rest of the night or even worse, it may cause an anxiety that lasts the rest of the weekend. Either way, it’s trespassed, it’s made the life space a little less safe, it’s made the balance a little less equal.
So it’s time to become more responsible communicators, just because we can communicate 24/7 doesn’t mean we should. It’s time to keep the out of hours work messages to the truly urgent or the sharing of the Jaeger photos (or is that just me).
And with so many communication channels available, let’s keep WhatsApp for life shall we.
Ps. If anyone wants to know my WhatsApp profile picture is of me drinking a Moscow mule, which was followed by a prosecco tequila bomb not long before the night turned messy. (A night out with work colleagues at that, who pretty much all are now invited WhatsApp buddies)