Work-Life Balance will be eclipsed by Work-Life Blending


Yesterday the The Future Laboratory and Microsoft Windows Mobile shared the work we’ve been doing around how mobile technologies are affecting people’s work style is changing with the advances in technology.


Today, according to Microsoft Windows Mobile research, nearly half of all workers (46.8%) have jobs that involve them working away from the office and with the proportion balanced more towards men at 63.6% than women at 33.8%. From this, 41% of the men who spend time out of the office say that it constitutes more than 10 hours (or more than a day) each week.


 


This is an area I’ve always felt very passionate about as I personally live 90 miles from the Microsoft HQ in Reading so each journey is 180 mile round trip! Thankfully Microsoft itself has a very open approach to flexible working so I can ultimately work from anywhere in the world!  One of my best friends works for a large oil company who are the exact opposite – he lives a similar distance away but his company insists that he come to the office each day – even though he spends his whole day talking with his colleagues on the phone as they are all based across Europe!


 


I see lots of discussion around flexible working and work life balance however most organisations get the two confused. Our Future Laboratory work has shown that people want to blend their personal and work lives as they lines between them are becoming blurred.


 


Our work with the Future Laboratory has been collated into a report which I have attached to this blog article.


 


I’d be interested in your thoughts.


 

Microsoft and futurelab report.pdf


Comments (6)
  1. MSDNArchive says:

    This is an interesting report that puts the ‘official’ stamp on what people already intuitively know.  I’m interested to see how "no-meeting days" are catching on around Microsoft and other tech companies.  S C Johnson’s No Meeting Day Policy, enforced two Fridays per month, has been hugely successful at enabling employees to be more productive heading into the weekends, decreasing the need to take work home. This company in particular has received a lot of press for the success metrics around the policy.  

  2. Niall says:

    I think working from home actually has the potential to make work life balance worse. Suddenly the place you go to be away from work is no longer that. And certainly I think there is the potential for doing a lot more work, as there is less of a "I want to go home" pull.

    Life bleeding over the boundary into work is rarely accepted by employers, without good reason (ie unmovable appointments, family emergencies). How many times does work bleeding over the boundary into life come under those headings of something unmovable or an emergency? So often it is simply something "important", but there’s always something important, otherwise what is the point of the job? Important life issues that start affecting work hours usually end up in a discussion with the boss, but it never seems to be the other way. I think working from home can actually make this situation a lot worse. Sometimes it’s good to have a barrier between you and the employer so that they understand "this far, no further" 😛

  3. sugarmag says:

    I’ve embraced the blended approach for the last 2 decades using whatever technology was available at the time.  Since the nature of our work has always required a lot of international travel, we lose a great deal of personal time.  Now with oversees development resources, evenings are spent online to China while helping kids with homework or baking for some party.  But since work time overflows into personal time, our company allows our personal time to overflow into work time (for those of us in this situation).  The rest of our company is organized in a traditional format.  

    I’m not in the target demographic of the article, but all in all, this style of living has led to a great deal of satisfaction.  It’s also gives my kids visibility into what work can be like.    

  4. alib says:

    What’s interesting in this report is how the oldies (age 30+!) have a different view to those that have grown up with technology all their lives.

    You only need to look at teenagers these days, armed with XBoxes, IM, IPods and numerous other gadgets and gizmos. They spend enormous amounts of time on the internet – both for school/work and socially.  They flick between the 2 without a thought because this is what they know and how they have engaged with technology during chilldhood and teen years

    Surely, in another 5-10 years, with these kids going into the workplace and management work-life blending will naturally bcome the norm and those resisting this will become the new "old boys"??

  5. Jonathan says:

    I skimmed and forwarded this report to my boss before looking at the comments and found that what I said to him about it was similar to what KarinM commented, basically that there’s nothing revolutionary that isn’t already in our consciousness.

    I’ve increasingly been blending life and work, partly because the significant percentage of my work that is taken up with email doesn’t have to be done from my desk since a WM5 device is practically as good as a PC for that application.

    Those of us who are always connected can potentially be more productive working away from the distractions that result from colleagues knowing that you’re always at your desk.

    Sometimes being in an office makes you feel that you have to be doing something that yeilds instant results, or at least looks to others like it’s going in that direction, whereas being away from that environment allows you to read/learn/explore more and build possibilities rather than hammer away at hard solutions.

  6. It is good to see this report out as I contributed to it, in my position as Editor of the homeworking website at http://www.enterprisenation.com

    We hear from readers on a daily basis who are delighted to have found the freedom and flexibility of working from home. Let’s look forward to a future of even greater numbers of homeworkers!

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