Life & Work: Is blurring the line good or bad?

Posted on September 24, 2007

In the internet world the line between work and life has been getting more blurry over time. There has been a lot of talk about it in various blogs and other publications some of which talk about the good and some of which talk about the bad. I began to think about this lack of a line and whether it was bad or good (or both) shortly after writing my latest piece on networking.

That particular post focused on what I view as the core of good networking and that is simply being truthful, honest and striving to create lasting friendships that may also lead to business (i.e. being a good human being). Of course following that approach makes keeping a line between business and life pretty difficult.

Speaking from personal experience I would say that a lot of the folks I work with on a regular basis are also good friends or at least heading toward that status. That means we share a beer at a pub as friends one night and the next morning we’re providing connections for each other or working on a business deal.

I love that way of working since it makes work so much more fun. I mean who doesn’t want to work on something they are passionate about and get to do it with friends that are just as passionate? (Quick disclaimer - I know some folks prefer to keep life and business separate. This is just my $0.02 and it is all *imho*.)

After coming to that conclusion I began to take a look back at history to figure out if the line between work and life had always ben there or if it evolved over time. It seems to me that the line has evolved into being because, in the past, the line was pretty much non-existent.

If you think you about it people’s lives were very tied to their work back when business was mainly agricultural and trading rather than paying for things with cash. In those days everyone seemed to know everyone else in town and people weren’t simply customers. They were also friends, neighbors and family. I would guess that it was not uncommon for customers to know the whole family that owned the general store or the family that ran the pumpkin farm.

Today it seems like the line has been drawn because people look at business as separate from life but I wonder if that isn’t the way we should think about things. If business was more personal and ones customers and partners were also friends it seems more humanity could be brought back into the business world and better deals could be done.

Sure, there would be arguments and issues because of the personal nature of things but that exists already. I mean, when someone says that something isn’t personal and that it is just business does that really matter? I feel like people will generally take it personally anyhow and, a lot of the time, it probably is.

What’s interesting is that Facebook seems to be breaking down some of those barriers as more and more work friends, customers and partners begin to connect on the network. Suddenly people begin to see others as people with families, hobbies, etc. just like them. Adding the human element to the mix changes things since now the person on the other end of the phone or computer is more real. They aren’t just a customer, partner or co-worker they are a fellow human. I feel like that “realness” makes a big difference in how people feel about their work.

Scaling that type of situation so it works in the world of big business, though, will be the key and I am not sure how or if that can be done (or even if most people would want it to be done). What are your thoughts? Can it be done and, if so, should it be?



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2 Comments so far
  1. […] Life/Personal Life- Should There be a Difference? Jump to Comments I read a blog post by Eric Olson,  talking about trying to figure out if there was or should be a line between “work” and […]

  2. Jason Jacobsohn September 25, 2007 11:17 pm

    Developing long last relationships usually results in getting to know people very well that you consider them your friends. So, I absolutely agree that the line between work and life gets blurred. However, there is usually a distinction between work friends and out of work friends. Just be careful not to act in a way that you don’t want your work friends to see you. For example, don’t get drunk at a holiday party because you don’t want these people to see you this way.