Describing the traditional office used to be simple. It was the place you’d enter every workday, to do the job you’d been paid to do, that you'd leave at the end of the day. Distinct barriers helped define what the “office” was — most notably the location and the people in attendance.
But with the evolution of social and technological norms, the definition of the modern workplace has become more complex. It’s hard to describe what the “office” really is anymore.
Today's hyper-connected companies extend workplace expectations beyond the walls of your business headquarters. Many companies assert their commitment to providing a healthy work-life balance, however, the lines between the two continues to blur. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — work and life can compliment each other quite nicely. But whether we like it or not, the office (which we used to define as a specific place) is now everywhere.
Being aware of this blended world of business and lifestyle is crucial. Here are a few situations where these two worlds can coexist and complement each other.
Anyone can talk to coworkers about work-related things outside of work. We use it as a coping mechanism since it’s such a safe and easy topic. Work conversations at bars and restaurants (while often a touch more candid after a beer or two) are all too similar to the conversations that happen at work — and we can miss out on richer and deeper conversations with our coworkers by placing the topic of “work” at the heart of it all.
This can be a touchy subject, as many people want a clear delineation between work conversations and personal conversations. And while there are plenty of topics that a level-headed employee could and should avoid when interacting with coworkers, that doesn’t mean that all personal conversation is off limits.
Establishing deeper, more personal connections with your coworkers is one of the easiest ways to help you lift the veil on their personalities, motivations and expectations. It makes projects easier and communications more engaging. Knowing that the “office” extends beyond your cubicle allows you to leverage the “life” portion of your work-life balance and bring more meaning to your work relationships.
Large Life Purchases
In most cases it’s easy to apply life lessons to business, allowing personal experiences to help inform our business decisions. But are you aware of how business lessons might inform life decisions? A perfect example is how people handle making large purchases, such as a house or car.
Think back and remember how you felt during and after your last large purchase. In the instance of a car, did you drive off the lot feeling like you got steamrolled by the sales rep and therefore left unsatisfied with how much you paid for your car? Or did you feel like you landed the deal of a lifetime? You can learn some valuable insights about yourself when reflecting on a decision like this, especially when it comes to how you might have handled this high-pressure or uncomfortable situation at work.
Allowing work to bleed into your day-to-day life doesn’t have to be about answering emails outside normal work hours. It can be about incorporating work lessons and skills into life problems and projects. Leverage the skills you’ve learned from salary negotiations to haggle when purchasing a car or utilize the talents you’ve acquired from balancing department budgets to inform some of your own financial decisions. “Work” can bring balance to “life” more often than you’d think.
Around the Dinner Table
There are plenty of situations when conversation about work is acceptable and even encouraged. The dinner table is an accepted haven for work talk. Questions like “How was your day?” are so often paired with “Well, work was …” answers. But make sure you’re thinking and talking about other things as well.
Over the next few nights, take notice of your conversation and cell phone habits. Are the majority of your dinner table conversations centered around work? Do you find yourself checking your phone constantly or sending work emails during dinner? Easy access to work related-activities can make deprioritizing work much harder to do. While the office may be “everywhere,” it doesn’t mean it should consume you. Business is about being able to prioritize properly, so don’t forget to incorporate your life priorities into that to-do list.
Basic Awareness Is Key
Opportunities to practice or engage in business can be found nearly anywhere outside the workplace, but it doesn’t mean you need to act on each and every one of them. Work-life balance is critical to personal wellbeing and development, so know when to leave work at the door (spoiler: do it often). Work can be rewarding, but if not paired with doing other things you love, will quickly consume you.