As a relatively new blogger to the site, I spent a fair amount of time reading through past posts with hopes of avoiding redundant content. In my process of recon, I was struck by several poignant articles that addressed juggling diverse life and work-related priorities with grace and awareness. Therefore, rather than echo well-articulated sentiments regarding the importance of seeking balance in activities that are and aren’t architecture-related (see “Architecture and the Rolling Stones,” and “The Only Constant is Change” for reference,) I’d like to build on these themes and relate them to several current trends and cultural shifts that are playing a heavy hand in provoking and necessitating these conversations.
As an Intern Architect with a passion for Workplace Design, I have spent ample time researching trends in the workplace, and the exciting landscape of “Future Work.” The research that has proved to be of great interest to me is the direct correlation between technology and related cultural shifts.
In a recent article by Knoll’s Workplace Research division, a primary “macro trend” in the future workplace is cited as “Business in an Instant.” The article further unpacks this idea by relating “Business in an Instant” to the following components: (1) connectivity between people has increased, (2) business culture has become something best described as “always on,” i.e. that given immediate access to technology, people can feasibly be contacted at any time, anywhere, and (3) “interruptions have become a part of work life.” (See Knoll Workplace Research: Future Work and Work Trends for further reading.)
As I glance at my illuminated, chirping phone, about to take a break from writing this article to check an e-mail, return a text, and set my alarm for a 6 am wake-up call, I am afraid I’ve fallen victim to being a product of our current culture. I am part of our “always on” culture, and as a Millennial, it seems that I am part of a generational shift in which the boundaries between work and life are blurred daily.
Currently, I am trying to reconcile the realities of this “macro trend.”
On one hand, I appreciate the ability to express and communicate ideas so readily, and across vast distances. It only requires the sending of an Instant Message on my company’s intranet for me to contact friends I’ve worked with in our New York, Chicago, and Beijing offices, not to mention the person sitting next to me. Regardless of when and what I choose to message, peoples’ virtual availability, summed up in a tiny green dot on my computer screen next to their name, signifies that contact and virtual collaboration are welcome at any time.
On the other hand, technology has made it challenging to compartmentalize the various work/life activities that comprise daily life. With the exception of actively separating ourselves from our technological devices (how many articles have come out recently regarding solitary retreats, etc. in the past year..), hardly an hour of most peoples’ days go by that they do not check a message, field a phone call, share an image, check-in to a social media site, passively watch digital media, create/produce via computer, or meet/present utilizing technological resources. There might be an off switch on your device, but there is no off switch to our means of communicating as well as the daily processes involving technology that have become embedded into our routines.
As someone who can appreciate and indulge in “quiet” time, the notion of interruptions as a “part of work life” presents me with difficulties at times. In architecture school, I would often spend hours in the studio, drafting and modelling with a sense of natural flow and an unstudied disregard for time and the outside world. Fast forward to working in a progressive, energetic work environment in which collaboration and coordination are key. Much of my sacred, solitary “thinking” time has been relegated to time spent in nature, on a yoga mat, walking to work, grabbing a coffee, or the delicious, quiet moments before waking and sleeping.
Currently, I am working on defining and embracing my personal protocols and efficient processes as a “mobile” worker, thinker, and citizen. As our culture continues to become even more fluid in the ways we work and live, perhaps the paradigm of “work/life balance” has become less about balance and more about adaptation and seamless integration–i.e. an opportunity to reflect, reassess, and be deliberate regarding how and what technology we utilize to fulfill varied processes. This mindfulness of using technology when appropriate and effective, rather than “available,” paired with a conscious effort to be brave and go analog when technology becomes distracting rather than productive (both at work and in life in general) might be a good start.
Recently, I spent several hours trying to solve a problem utilizing a 3d computer modeling program. Finally, I put down my mouse and picked up a pen. A few strokes later on a piece of trace paper and my idea was crystallized…