The Line Between Personal and Business
Today I had a conversation with someone at work regarding Skype, mostly because I was attempting to help them get EQO running on one of their phones. We have an internal instant messaging application, but I was suprised to find out she used Skype more than the internal messaging application because it allows her to mix the business and personal lives a little easier. Skype seems to work particularly well through all kinds of firewalls–the security folks would say it works a little too well. For most other forms of IM, Meebo is a real handy way to get around firewalls.
This conversation led me down the path of thinking about the implications of mixing business and your personal life. Having worked almost exclusively out of my house since 1998 for companies several hundred miles away, I cannot help but mix the two. Work happens in my house. Other things in my life occasionally interrupt my work, for example one or both of my children losing their minds downstairs. Work also intrudes upon my life, for example a meeting at an odd time sets the entire family back a few hours in starting the day.
I designate certain “hours” of my day as “working hours.” These are hours where my main priority is work-related tasks. That doesn’t mean I don’t work outside of those hours–occasionally I do. I don’t always “work” during those hours either. I try and deliniate, but it doesn’t always work out.
Then there are people I’ve met over the years. Many people started out as work-related, either they worked directly with me, or they were someone I’ve interacted with as a result of work. Many of them have “moved on” in one way or the other and they are still in contact with me outside of work. They have officially moved into my “personal” life, but they come from my work life. I’ve also had people out of my personal life come into my work life.
One big area where I have a hard time distinguishing between what is “mine” and what is “work” is with computer and networking hardware. I have so many computers at my house it’s scary for all but the most hardcore of computer people. I have an in-home network that rivals that which exists in many small businesses. Who owns a particular piece of hardware? On the big ticket items, I could probably tell you. On the smaller things? I’ve forgotten more things than I remember. It all blurs together.
At the end of the day, it comes down to this: Some things are clearly personal, some things are clearly work, and there’s this huge gray area in the middle. I have a difficult time figuring out where my life “ends” and work “begins.” Work is so integrated and interspersed into my life that the two have an almost symbiotic relationship. When one thrives, the other usually thrives too. When one starts having problems, the other isn’t too far behind.
The question I have to ask myself is: is this healthy? Is this “right?” I don’t know the answer to that yet, but maintaining a good work-life balance is growing harder by the day. One thing I do know is that if I don’t get in bed really soon, my sleeping world is going to collide head-on with the real world.