Friday, September 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Blurred Lines: The marriage of work and life

In recent years, the line between work and personal time has gotten a bit blurry as we become an increasingly connected society.
In recent years, the line between work and personal time has gotten a bit blurry as we become an increasingly connected society. iStockphoto

In recent years, the line between work and personal time has gotten a bit blurry as we become an increasingly connected society. Surveys show 44% of us bringing our cellphones to bed and up to 75% of us using them in the bathroom. And many companies are beginning to embrace alternative work arrangements in order to retain highly motivated employees, with the requirement of being tied to a desk giving way to a flexible workplace that encourages creativity and acknowledges people's non-work needs.

Locally, GlaxoSmithKline made big headlines when it opened a double-LEED platinum-certified facility at the Navy Yard last year. Among other innovations, the new space generated buzz with its office-less environment, in which employees are free to choose where on the campus they work during the day, and are encouraged to collaborate with colleagues on the roof, set up a workstation in the cafeteria, or schedule "walking meetings" that can lead to the river and back. While there was some initial trepidation, said Jennifer Armstrong, US External Communications for GSK, "On the first morning, people were so excited because they saw so many coworkers they never ran into in the old location's cube farms and offices on multiple floors across two buildings." She also pointed out "when surveying people after the move, they say they wouldn't want to go back to having an office."

With the availability of increasingly high-quality free or low-cost videoconferencing options such as Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts and GoToMeeting, a growing number of other companies have also come around to adopting virtual communication as a way to keep employees, clients, vendors and stakeholders connected.

It's not just about big companies, either. Nowadays, nearly one in three working Americans is an independent worker, according to the Freelancers Union, and with employers' continued reluctance to hire more full time permanent employees and progressively higher wages associated with contract positions, the trend seems likely to continue. Working independently or as a remote contractor can provide individuals with the ability to work around other responsibilities, such as caring for a child or elderly parent. But working freelance doesn't necessarily mean sitting alone in a coffee shop. Co-working spaces, such as Old City's Indy Hall or Center City's Benjamin's Desk, offer the chance to use their facilities on an as-needed basis and work alongside other professionals in a creative environment.

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  • You don't need to look very hard to see that the line between work and home disappearing, too. It's not uncommon to find an office environment with an onsite gym or childcare facility, or offices that allow employees to bring their dogs or grow vegetables in a designated garden area. GSK's Navy Yard complex offers employees the ability to meet with a nurse to discuss health concerns or interface with a credit union representative to take care of banking without leaving the building.

    The new idea of life/work balance means greater convenience for everyone, but the downside is that with all the ways that the professional and personal are merging, it can be difficult to remember to take some time to disconnect from work. Even the most progressive job can't fill all your needs, and it's important to take a step back every so often to make sure you're not forgetting to attend to the other areas of your life that you value. And, please, put down your phone when you go to the bathroom.

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    Rita Friedman Certified Career Coach, PhillyCareerCoach.com