Work-Life Balance

Posted on April 8, 2011

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Apologies for the lack of updates last week but I’ve been a very busy boy, which neatly segues into the meat of today’s whinge: work/life balance.

The video below is Corning’s idea of the future.  I assume Corning make glass given the content of the video, but for all I know they could be into eugenics and mind-altering drugs.  Either way they are a dangerous group if they actually believe that their depiction of the future is anything other than horrifying.

Whatever happened to those optimistic post-war visions for our futures which were all about technology freeing us from the shackles of a career?  When did the dream change from jetpacks and short skirts to waking up and brushing your teeth whilst working?  I have a sneaking suspicion that everything changed when women entered the workplace, but that is a very un-pc view and requires a bit of explanation, so best left alone for now.

Our leisure-filled futures

Our leisure-filled futures

There is someone I used to work with who has 13,897 followers on Twitter, which is quite a number.  I’ve got 74 followers (@neilawatson) and trust me I’m giving away little gems every day.  In every 140 character update from me you get a finely crafted and focused little pearl with which to adorn your (most likely) otherwise turgid, work-burdened existence.   74 followers!  Depressing, although understandable, because I am not “on message”.

Twitter is a desperate place full of needy people who want to be followed, me included – follow me please > @neilawatson.  However the best strategy to get followers is to talk utter dirge about work.  I thought the whole point of Twitter was to give you a counterpoint to the monotonous attrition of the daily grind… and I like my job to a point, it’s still a job not a hobby.  But all I see on Twitter apart from a few notable exceptions, who I’ll share with you at the end of this little grumble – are people tweeting: “Here’s a great example of new media”, “Interesting use of social media”, “Bland, bland, pointless, I love my job – actually I hate it, but I must show the world the opposite is true”.

I’m giving away beautiful little insights into a different view which tries to suggest that there is another world outside of work.  If we all sit there and let Corning and the others get their way they will find a way to make us work in our sleep, trust me – I worked for Intel (less said there the better).

I might be labouring the point here, but 74 followers for gems.  13,875 followers for describing a fabricated existence of working 18 hour days.  Here’s a quick comparison:

One of my tweets: Do people with personalised number plates also put their name on a label on the inside of their underwear?

One of his tweets: Still working… had to finish some slides, took me a lot longer than expected. No catching up with e-mail and to do’s…

One of my tweets:  Twitter really isn’t a good place for a paranoid schizophrenic is it?#Iambeingfollowed #yesyouare

One of his tweets: Wanted to post my expenses, but forgot #bpost is only open when people are working#customerfirst

Me: 74 followers, Him: 13,897 followers – I mean COME ON!  Okay, I understand I might be veering away from my point of work/life balance a little, but trying to get more followers than a workaholic is not an easy task and it’s eating into my work/life balance – but please tell me I’ve got a point here!

I am losing the battle. Technology seems to be wining in its ambition to make work permeate every moment of our existence.  I’m just trying to promote the 1950’s depictions of a future filled with tight clothes and beach balls and what’s wrong with that?  It sounds like I live in the past and in many ways I do, the music was better, the films were better, but the food and wine wasn’t up to much.

Beach Life

Okay, admittedly some things from the past were weird.

Right, I’m a bit rusty at this, it has been a while and I’ve been busy with work much to my chagrin, so I think I’ll stop whining and start celebrating others who are also brave enough to talk about something other than work on Twitter.  First though I’ll bring in the marketing point.

Back in the early days of post-industrial life (even the name of the period suggests no more work!) the dream was a future filled with leisure time, automation meant work was something for a few unfortunates (not me Jack!) to worry about. That was the core objective though or the brand essence of the ideal wasn’t it – leisure not work.   As the campaign wore on, things changed, tweaks were made and nobody stopped to question whether the campaign was still addressing its original goals.   Now the role of automation is to make it easier for us to work where ever and whenever we can, for example when we’re brushing our teeth.

Why does that actor smile when she’s confronted with someone moving her meeting forward by an hour to an unreasonable starting time of 08:30?  Why doesn’t she throw her toothbrush at the “Architectural display glass” like any normal person would.  Interestingly they can’t be arsed to dream up a clever way of keeping your teeth clean to save you a wee effort, but they can dream up a way of making you get to work an hour earlier and in fact invade your bathroom with work.   As a counter-measure I’m going to invent digital toilet paper so that I can wipe my arse on email.

So – marketers, stick to the original plan please.  Don’t forget the idea, the dream even, and go and make a hash of things.  Look what it leads to!

If you are on Twitter then of course you should be following me @neilawatson, but also here are some other heroes who can talk about things other than work!

http://twitter.com/#!/@neilawatson/funnyfolk – professionally funny people so they don’t really count as it’s their job, but still worth a follow.

http://twitter.com/#!/ericbratislava – a copywriter in Bristol who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.

http://twitter.com/#!/sarah_lowin – a colleague who also believes in a world outside work.  So feel free to follow her although only after you’ve followed me of course.

Right, back to work.

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Posted in: Futurology, Marketing