I want to talk to you about work life balance and how I achieved this in my own life.
I am a remote worker so in theory can work anywhere any time. I am also something with technology nerd so have quite a few computing devices. I have a gaming PC upstairs that is also used for various hobbies like programming and electronics. In an area set aside as an office downstairs I also have a desktop computer used for my remote job, which also included a few graphics programs and programming tools that I used in my hobbies. And I have portable devices like iPhones, iPads and laptops PCs for when I go out.
Now, all of these devices had installed on them the software necessary for me to carry out my job and all the files were synchronised through OneDrive, so I was able to work absolutely anywhere; I was quite proud of this pervasive computing set up. The downside of this was a background anxiety that if I wasn’t therefore actually working then that was a bad thing and if I could be working then I should be working.
For example, this was the typical sequence of events for visiting a coffee shop:
- Buy coffee and cake
- Unpack and Set up laptop, login, wait for OneDrive updates, email downloads etc.
- Consume coffee and cake, looking out of the window and at other coffee shop patrons
- Ensure all laptop data up-to-date, glance at emails
- Shut down laptop, pack it away and leave
And this was a regular experience late in the evenings:
- I really fancy playing a game, or building that new circuit that I read about
- But you really ought to do some work first, it’s just waiting there for you
- I can’t really face work at the moment, so I don’t deserve to do the nice stuff either
- Don’t do anything
Sometimes it takes an external event to make you understand and recognise the situation that you are in and this was true in my case. My employer announced that they would require security software to be installed on all computing devices accessed corporate applications and data. This is not unreasonable request but would effectively mean adding new software to all my devices and to a certain extent handing over control of these to a third-party. I wasn’t really comfortable doing this but it did trigger a complete revaluation of the way I went about my work.
I decided to take all my work related software and data off every device apart from the one set aside in the office area, and I also removed all of my “own“ software from that computer. I’m now quite happy to have the corporate security software installed there is there is nothing on that computer that is personal to me, nor is there any of my personal data on it.
The big advantage of this new set up is that when I sit down to “work“ that is all I do, I can concentrate on getting that work done and make sure that there is sufficient time in my day set aside to do that. More importantly, when that time is over I actually make a point of turning off the work computer, knowing I have done what I need for the day and can switch off myself.
I’m now getting a lot more done with my various hobbies as I no longer feel any guilt about working on them and my new coffee shop regime is this:
- Order coffee and cake
- Unpack and open book (currently “the Apollo Guidance Computer“, absolutely fascinating)
- Consume coffee and cake while reading book
- Close and pack book, leave relaxed and satisfied
I completely appreciate that this does not apply to everyone and I recognise I am very fortunate to have control over my day and the space available to compartmentalise things in this way – but sometimes it is worthwhile to consider whether making everything accessible everywhere is actually the right thing. Technologically it might be very clever but from a mental health perspective it might not be the best thing.