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Cisco Survey Reveals Balance is Essential: Is work life balance really possible?

February 2, 2011 - 6 Comments

The Balance Question

For those of you who have checked out my presentation “Confessions of a Radical Collaborator”, you know that I love my job and I love my bike. Cycling for me is chance to get out of the office and move my body, feel the wind in my face, and really be a part of the outdoor experience. I feel strong riding up a hill and nothing but sheer exhilarating fun speeding down one! I’ve learned to trust my own momentum…physics really do work!

Riding a bike (like most things in life) is all about balance.

Remember when you first learned to ride a bike? We all do.

It's all about balance.

My father and mother owned a busy diner and just didn’t have time to teach me after school. They asked their cook and family friend, Sunny, to explain basic bike skills to me when the kitchen was slow. Sunny was patient and kind and when he took the training wheels off my pink, banana-seated, two-wheeler…I felt pretty confident.

He taught me that to keep my balance I needed to do three things: relax my arms and shoulders, keep a grip on the handlebars and keep my eyes on the path. He also taught me if you aren’t prepared to fall, you aren’t prepared to ride.

Balance is something I think about a lot for myself and for my team at Cisco’s Collaboration Software Group. Most of us in the business world have access to many tools that allow us to collaborate anywhere and anytime. It’s no big surprise that employees all over the world are looking for flexibility and want to work remotely.

A recent Cisco survey reported that “two of three employees worldwide (66 %) said they would take a job with less pay and more flexibility in device usage, access to social media, and mobility than a higher-paying job without such flexibility. Sixty percent said they no longer needed to work in an office to be productive.” That sounds about right to me!

So does this mean that we should work every available hour of the day?

Can we give ourselves permission to live, work and play? If we have a conference call at 7am, can we feel okay about taking our puppy to the vet at 4? If we are checking email after dinner, do we have to feel guilty about getting some exercise before?

We know collaboration and conferencing tools like WebEx and TelePresence save us considerable time by not traveling. Being able to get email on our mobile devices sets us free from the office and cuts back on commuting. Is it unreasonable to use some of that time to add balance to our lives?

I know for me a bike ride at the end of the day makes my day, and energizes me for the day to come.

Yes, I am a “radical collaborator” but…

But I also find the time to be with my family and friends, go on vacation, exercise and attend non-work related events. I think I’m a better, more-focused employee and leader for not being “connected” all day and all night.

When’s the last time you spent a guilt-free hour doing something personal during your workday? Let me know. I’d like to hear from you. Add your comment below or send me a tweet @dchrapaty.

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  1. Great post. Occasionally when I'm wrestling with a hard strategic problem, I'll leave the desk completely and head to the gym. It's easy to get a lane in the lap pool at the SF JCC mid-day. By the time I get back to work I feel refreshed, and usually have a good solution to the difficult problem.

  2. It's amazing how technology is enabling us to incorporate work and personal within in the day as apposed to being separate. Now it's not just Charlie who has the golden ticket! I spent and hour during the day learning how to edit a Flip video for a testimonial at my son's school this week. Not sure if I've gotten rid of the guilt part yet :0) maybe when I'm at 250% of my number but I definitely feel comforted by the culture of work life balance we have here at cisco. I can get a half hour of extra sleep, join a meeting from my phone @ 5am then head into the office and not miss a beat. I get home to help cook dinner about half the time. I think with more freedom we actually find ourselves working harder & smarter. Happy wife = happy life the saying goes. Funny how I can tell how happy I'm going to be before I ever get home :) I have no excuses.

  3. Great thoughts Debra, and thanks for sharing. Balance is key, in all things. It's odd though how much of our "in the moment" time is weighted toward our "day job" (I know, too many quotes). Even for those who are not comfortable taking the puppy to the vet at 4PM, given they were on a conference call at 7AM (or 3AM for those of us who work in teams on opposite hemispheres), it's often difficult to truly be in the moment during personal time. Some say that's what it's like when you "work like an American" (still more quotes). I'm not sure that's the extent of it though. It's certainly a cultural affliction, but I see it reaching across nationalities. Personally, yes I'm comfortable taking an hour out of the normal work day for "me-time,"... but the problem is that I usually forget to do so. Take care. Bob

  4. We definitely benefit from the freedom to work, live, and, play as much as our network, applications, and devices allow us to collaborate. In the end being able to collaborate anytime, anywhere, and on any device allows us to take our pet to the vet, see our child's school play, or work out and still meet deadlines. Thanks for the perspective on balance.

  5. Yes, I take time in the day, and not afraid to do so/say so. Measuring performance isn't about counting hours, it's about gauging results. Shutting off is incredibly tough, but learning it is critical to (in order): 1 - My health 2 - My wife and kids 3 - My extended family 4 - My friends Once learned, you need to stick to it - it's a decision every day. -Q

  6. Hi Debra, awesome blog entry ! I truly believe that we can (and we would) change the World with our collaboration technology. Because what this "technology layer" of IM/presence/Webex/voice/video could give us is...freedom. And yes, balance. We are so stuck in the "go to the factory, turn on the machine, work, turn-off the machine, stop working, go home" mode. But this is not true anymore for many of us. We work with out head, with our brain. And I couldn't just turn my brain off. I think about work at home. I answer calls at home. And I'm guilty of checking my email during weekends. So why to count hours at work as a work. Why to even call my workplace a workplace when I work (think, do, create) almost everywhere ? We could be so much more free and balanced with our family, friends and our bodies if we all accept the fact that we could indeed work from everywhere, anytime, from any device. Not that we have to work 24/7 like machines. But we could choose a time, device and place. Because we can. We have a technology, we just don't have a mindset. Yet :) But I hope this would come soon and people would realize that no technology could save us. We have to save ourselves using technology that we already have in place. We just don't use it sometimes as we should. I do my job with this very purpose and idea - give us, give people around me more freedom, more happiness. Show them technology, what it can do for them. Time has come and technology should start to serve us. Petr Ruzicka