As the title implies, this article examines the competing demands of work and personal life. It considers ways in which these two once-separate facets have become inextricably intertwined, and it discusses some of the implications for those who fail to draw an adequate separation between the two.
While many people in many job types can suffer problems from not properly differentiating between work and personal aspects of their lives, I think IT professionals are particularly at risk. People who work extensively through telecommuting are also at risk. Having a fast network connection and computer at home is a great benefit for many reasons. However, as I’ve told people in the past, the fact that you CAN work from home all too often means that you DO work from home.
There are many in modern work life who finish a day at the office, go home, and start working again. Cell phones, instant messaging, and e-mail put us within easy reach of colleagues – even when we’re at home sick or on vacation. For many people these tools extend the work day far longer than is healthy or productive. For IT people in particular, after-hours times are ideal for upgrades, patches, and miscellaneous testing and configuration changes. But going beyond just these obvious areas, many IT professionals are constantly modifying and tweaking from home. They check servers and networks almost compulsively, and the quality of their personal life suffers.
Technology exists to serve us and make our lives better, not the other way ’round. If we are ever to realize the promise of more free time and higher quality free time through technology, we’ll have to first learn how and when to TURN IT OFF.