This is probably not something we think about often, but they’re finding it in Australia, and even thinking it could be a problem.
As our working lives become increasingly 24-7, our new research suggests there’s now an additional task to do in our families and friendships. We need to work harder than before to get our everyday schedules to sync up, even if just for a short time, to catch up in person with our best friends or to have a family meal together.
At various points in my life, I’ve seen this play out, mostly when I was working even a slightly different schedule, let alone when I was traveling all the time. It’s really hard to stay connected to those closest to you when your own work gets in the way.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
The first one that comes to mind was when I was 18-19. I was going to school full time and working 3-4 evenings per week. My closest friends, for the most part, were working full-time, 9-5 type jobs, either to save up money to go to college later, or because they were older and already in a career. This, of course, meant that my life was out of sync with theirs. It led to me being very disconnected from them, on the outside, if you will. That improved when I switched to working every afternoon instead of evenings, but that, of course, led to my college existence being attending classes all morning, then running off campus to go to work. I didn’t really make a lot of close friends at school during those years.
Later, when working to cover West Coast offices for a national law firm, I was the one person in the office stuck working until 8 every night. There were no after work happy hours, no meeting the wife and friends for dinner, etc. Again, it was hard to make really good friends, simply because my schedule didn’t really help.
Traveling, obviously, created just as much difficulty. I couldn’t make a lot of plans with people because I never knew if I’d even be there to keep those plans.
On a personal level, this is difficult. It takes a ton of work to overcome these obstacles just to stay in touch with people, though at least technology makes that somewhat easier now. On a professional level, this is also a problem. When you’re out of sync with the people closest to you, it’s hard to be fully engaged at work. Those struggles weigh down even the best of us.
It’s also going to be awfully tough to attend networking events when you’re working 60 hours a week. If your schedule is out of sync with your coworkers, you don’t even get the chance to network internally at those outside of the office social events.
The bottom line, is that when work encroaches on all of the other areas of life, we pay a price for that, at home, and in the office.
The question is, what are we willing to do about it, and how should the workplace be helping?
I have some thoughts, I’ll probably be blogging those at some point in the near future, but what do you do to keep life in sync?