We've all been there: Aasks the audience to please turn off their BlackBerrys and cellphones. Not everyone listens. When this happened during a recent industry meeting I attended, the planner sitting next to me, BlackBerry on her lap, shot me a guilty glance. “I can't,” she whispered. “My boss said she had to be able to reach me.”
Rude, yes. But I empathized with her dilemma. Nearly everyone who works in Corporate America these days is expected to give at least 110 percent to the job.
While it's distressing to think that our work is so demanding that we can't be out of touch for an hour, some — particularly the GenX and GenYers who are addicted to their communication devices — choose to stay connected 24/7. “My BlackBerry is like a drug,” said one young planner during a discussion on work-life balance at's Northeast Chapter winter meeting. “That's why they call it a crackberry. When I try to turn it off, I have nightmares.”
The plugged-in mentality of younger generations is driving a new way of looking at work, notes Ed Simeone, CMP, CMM, Fusion Productions, who led FICP's work-life balance session. Gen X and Gen Y don't approach the job in terms of an 8-to-5 day in the office, he said. They want flexibility in the workplace, but they're connected around the clock and willing and able to work from home on their laptops as needed. “We're transitioning to a performance-based culture,” said Simeone. “But it might mean that companies will require people to be always available, even if they're not in the office.”
Meanwhile, the challenge for meeting planners of any age remains how to manage the workload without sacrificing their sanity — or their personal lives. Simeone offered the following suggestions:
Focus on your needs. Implement an exercise program or modify your work hours, for example. This will not only empower you, but can help you to be more productive on the job.
Keep a log of your daily activities. It will help you to understand how you are using your time, and to identify where the imbalances are.
Communicate clearly, and listen carefully. It can help you to avoid extra work.
Set aside at least one night each week for recreation.
Enjoy your day off. Don't clean the bathroom or do the laundry.
Get enough sleep. If you don't, you'll make bad decisions and have to work harder.
Bolster your support system. Take the time to develop relationships with friends.
Don't be afraid to seek professional help.
Fight the guilt. It is OK to have work you love and a family.
Know that your best is good enough. You're sometimes going to miss a business obligation or a family event.
To sum it up: In work, and in life, balance is an elusive goal. But you can take control.