In the 1980s, the term “work-life balance” entered our vocabulary. Cell phones and computers were entering the mainstream, slowly permeating our professional and personal lives until we now race to keep up. Wireless laptop computers. Smart phones. The iPad. These and other electronic devices now enable anytime/anywhere access to email, text, Internet, games, media and applications, making boundary setting a deliberate choice. More and more people find themselves asking how to cut the cord that is also a lifeline.
Striking an equitable balance of time among family, career and our own well-being has become increasingly complex. Unfortunately, the average daily commute is lengthening as both urban congestion and suburban sprawl continue to grow, further jeopardizing our valuable time. According to the Mayo Clinic, your career may not have your best interests at heart as a life partner. They list these issues as detrimental to your work-life balance:
- Fatigue. When you’re tired, productivity and clear thought suffer, taking a toll on your professional reputation or leading to dangerous or costly mistakes.
- Lost time with friends and loved ones. If you’re working too much, it’s difficult to nurture friendships and family relationships—you may miss important events or milestones and this can leave you feeling alienated and may harm relationships.
- Increased expectations. Hard work often just gets you more hard work. If you regularly burn the midnight oil, you may be assigned even more work, thus compounding the problem.
Telecommuting can provide relief from these issues. Working from home—with all its distractions—may end up being healthier for us. A recent study shows that consistent sedentary behaviors among office workers can increase the risk of a heart attack. Sitting down is arguably the single most dangerous activity facing the white collar professional. Personally, I’ve found that working at home tends to encourage me to move around the house more as I attend to job responsibilities through the day. However, if you simply trade a sedentary work life for a sedentary working-at-home life, you aren’t reaping a significant benefit of telecommuting.
Social media provides an important benefit for the telecommuter. At the office, gathering at communal areas fosters workplace relationships, encourages informal brainstorming, and helps clear and refresh the mind. While working at home in a more solitary manner, social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and especially internal communities connect and empower telecommuters to trade information and questions with company and industry colleagues—regardless of their location. After you familiarize yourself with your company’s social media guidelines, tap into social media and connect to the “new water cooler.”
Finally, by regularly using video and web conferencing tools, regular telecommuters can stay in touch with their office coworkers without feeling alienated from corporate culture or friendly faces. These tools integrate personal relationships with technology and ensure that efficiency, productivity and communication remain key essentials in business meetings.
Technology is rapidly evolving as a constant in our lives; however, by skipping the commute a few days a week, you can improve your chances of achieving a healthier work-life balance, including technology in that balance however you choose. Benefits include gaining an hour or two each work day that you can spend with your children, catching up on sleep, starting a regular exercise routine, and being refreshed in all aspects of your life so you can bring more to each.
Are you telecommuting? Tell us what benefits you’ve noticed in your work-life balance, from lower gas bills to more time with the kids—we want to know.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Cheryl