In the late 60’s & 70’s the rallying slogan of the student movement and feminists was that the “personal is political”. There was an awareness that our personal experience and behaviours were connected to larger social and political structures. It was recognised that what happens in our lives and the choices we make at a personal level are also political and that we can influence through our personal choices. Politics wasn’t just something that happens at a distant level behind closed doors . This was an important realisation and empowering to realise we all have a part to play and we don’t necessarily need to join a political party to make a difference.
Now, as I do workshops and seminars in companies and organisations and I am often struck by the overlap between the personal and the professional lives of employees. It appears that the current slogan could be that “the personal is professional” as the distinction between our working lives and personal lives becomes increasingly blurred! Is this the path we wish to take with our working lives?
Many of us are checking our work e-mails in the evenings, at weekends and first thing in the morning ! We know this isn’t good but we don’t want to miss out, there may be something important and many of us think if we don’t keep on top of e-mails they will build up and make us stressed more! And somehow there is an expectation that e-mails should be responded to quickly; faster communication has speeded us all up!
Aside from e-mails there are many other ways our work life infringes or overlaps with our personal lives. Some companies have in-house, gyms, pharmacies, restaurants, physiotherapists, doctors etc. The list goes on and generally this is seen as very employee friendly in that all our needs are being attended to. Some well known companies I understand provide doughnuts and juices and hide the “bad stuff” so as they give us choice but steer us towards what’s good for us. How caring is that! However, the negative aspect of this is that it further blurs the distinction between our personal lives and our working lives.
In some organisations, employees can take as much holidays as they like and the outcome of this seems to be that many employees aren’t utilising this as they don’t want to be seen taking time off. Similarily flexible working hours means employers actually benefit as they get more productivity as people work harder.
So what is the solution as the personal and professional now merge?
Some suggestions I recommend from my experience is:
1) Find ways to ensure staff do take holidays and lunch breaks and that they turn off the e-mails at particular times. This approach needs to be supported by employers as people are tending to give too much to their employers and then getting burned out!
2)Have an e-mail policy around usage out of hours
3) Provide opportunities for employees to consider their personal wellness and incorporate mindfulness opportunities and general staff wellness inputs
4) Be aware of the time we spend in work and seek to ensure that we fence off time for non-work activity and spend time with our families and friends and have fun!
5) Practice switching off !
6) Have a look at the recent You tube video which is trending which gives an insight into the difficulties of Professor Robert Kelly giving a BBC interview from his home -not ideal-but very funny!