To fit a good work life balance, your work should stay at work. My previous job supplied me with a laptop and rules, when working at certain desks, that I had to take my laptop home “for security”, and it became second nature to carry a heavy bag with heavy laptop, heavy notebook, and several printouts, because I’d need them.
It made sense for the job. I was on client sites a lot, and didn’t know when I’d have a network connection, so I had to take what I thought I’d need with me. And I’d check email on my personal phone because 3g/4g is far more available than WiFi.
I told myself it was OK because I was using webmail so I didn’t get notifications on my phone. But then I got phone calls on my mobile. At night. On holiday. Boundaries crumbled, and yet my bosses had it worse. They’d give me battle stories of weekend working and lack of sleep, as if poor planning at a company level was something to be proud of.
Let’s be clear. A culture of antisocial hours is a failing culture. A culture that bleeds onto personal devices when I pick up the cost is a failing culture. A culture where people brag about it is a failing culture. A culture that asks for a hackathon to work on things no-one can get a budget to fix is a failing culture.
I’ve heard horror stories of companies set up for one or more of the above. It happened to me occasionally on the odd project, and when I was leading, I made it my responsibility to identify and fix the root causes. Failing once is a good opportunity to learn. Twice is a warning. If you fail the same way 3 times in a row, it’s a dysfunction you should stop everything to correct.
I don’t have a laptop bag in my new job. I have a place to leave it overnight. I don’t need papers to visit clients. It’s lightweight, and technology has moved on so WiFi is available. Taking a laptop home is an exception, not an expectation.
To those who need their laptop out of the office:
- Travel light. Small notebooks are better, tearaway pages are better still.
- Don’t bring your own device. If a company needs you to access work outside the office, they will pay you to do so. Or at least give you reasonable compensation. They’ll have a sane home-working policy, or a laptop-installed communication channel. If you can’t use Unified communications, or at least VOIP, things should change.
- Treat long hours as a bug. Fix it. If the company can’t fix it, the culture is wrong.
- Antisocial hours may be required, but they must be compensated for in whatever reward suits the worker best. And planned ahead whenever possible.