When I was preparing to return to work from maternity leave it appeared to me at the time that I had a work-life balance choice -- Full time or part time? Career or job? Businesswoman or mother? Financial security or insecurity? I felt torn. I had the career, but now I had the kid too, how on earth was this going to work? I was already an expert at the work-life balance, but this was going to need more. I had jested with friends and colleagues about work-life integration but suddenly I had my first inkling that this might just need to apply to me when I started to work through exactly what this choice was going to mean to my life.
My son cannot be dropped off at nursery before 8am -- But I need to leave earlier than that to be in the office for a 9am meeting.
My son has to be picked up from nursery before 6pm -- But I need to be on a call with US colleagues at 6.30pm.
I really want to take my son to swimming lessons -- But I work full time and I don’t want to burn half my free time at the weekend.
I want to meet with colleagues around the world -- But I cannot keep getting overnight babysitters to allow me to travel.
I want to meet regularly with my team -But I struggle to justify the travel time it will burn.
I want to be able to spend time with other mums as my support network -- But they only meet up on Fridays.
I want to spend more than 30mins in the evening with my son before he goes to bed -- But I want to be successful in my career and achieve my potential in my current job role.
I want to commit enough time to both my work AND my son. Surely this was an impossible task.
Well, it was hard returning, but what materialised quite quickly was one clear thing. I could make it work. I discovered that all the tools and flexibility that Cisco provides that I had previously taken for granted were quickly proving to be the glue that would allow me to do both. Smartphone, Laptop, Webex, Bluetooth car kit, home virtual office, video telephony, video conferencing, Telepresence, instant messaging, presence enabled apps, unified communications, cloud based corporate apps, to name but a few, phew! – all contribute to me truly being able to work from anywhere, anytime.
Sure, sometimes I have the mobile phone on speaker while I bath my son and yes, I spend most of my car journeys on the phone (hands free of course). OK, I often work in the evenings catching up on email and I have to manage my diary with laser precision. But guess what, I am loving my job, I am loving every minute I spend with my son and one year on, the application of technology in my working environment is allowing me to do both. It works, and it works because of the technology, and I didn’t have to choose between mother or career. I chose a third way, to try and do both, and I firmly believe I made the right decision and have achieved a work-life balance that works.
So what I have learnt is that every single one of us has a life outside work and these cool tools we have, and these cool companies that value our output, not our input, are changing our working lives forever. Forever and for the better and allowing us to choose both in a way we have never have before. And I choose to do both, because it is the 21st century so lucky for me, because I can.