Private vs. Professional – Finding a balance in the workplace.

In my last blog post, I discussed the contemporary issues of compassion and the future of work. I highlighted the importance of how consumers respond positively to the interaction with human emotion rather than artificial intelligence. I found my opinion of compassion within the workplace held a greater understanding of the way I interact with customers on a daily basis. Evidence shows that artificial intelligence cannot replace the relationships we have with customers and my last post stated this. I believe that compassion takes place in the sharing of stories both professional & personal. The question of the future still lingers in our minds as we watch technology advance overtime and I believe that exploring relationships & stories can help us differentiate between our professional and personal lives.

In this piece, I want to expand on the subject of compassion in the workplace and find the silver lining of why we separate our work lives from our personal lives. I think it’s important to understand the individual reasons we have for doing this. I believe those individuals who drive a wedge between the two may/may not rely heavily on compassion to help in doing this. In this post, I want to explore these avenues closer, so I have conducted an interview with my current employer Sally White. Sally has gained over 45 years of experience within the hospitality industry and has become one of the most influential professionals in my workplace over the years. With her insight and answers, I wanted to gain an understanding of her background, experience and asked her to share stories from her career. From this, I wanted to understand the reasons how she inputs compassion into her day-to-day life and to why she separates work from her personal life.

Before discussing my conversation with Sally, I wanted to gather more opinions and research into why people choose to separate the two aspects of their lives. I’ve asked myself questions such as why and how people are going about this.

The why was explained by Sofia from the Wisdom Post where she writes about the benefits of separating the two areas of our lives. The article states there are many benefits to separating our work lives from our personal such as an increase in creativity and productivity, improvement of our overall health & wellbeing as well as increased growth rate and ability to develop a passion for our work. Sofia explains that although it is mutually beneficial to separate the two, success can morally come from being able to balance the two effectively.

A word of the how is discussed by Ms Career Girl where she talks about the ways in which we can separate our two “lives”. The main highlighted issue in her piece talks about the internet. As the internet grows, so do we. The discussion talks about how social media tools such as Facebook & Twitter should be left in your personal life or better yet, making a separate business account. These days, we are constantly controlling our schedules on various digital platforms. The need to use two phones is not necessary, the issue can simply be minimised by switching off once you leave the job and keeping personal and business emails separate. This kind of “separation” allows us to balance a healthy work life as well as our personal life.

When we group ALL of the research of the why’s and how’s we can grasp an idea that balance is the main focus point. Having the ability to balance our professional and personal lives can lead to stronger relationships, productivity and overall success in our careers. This new concept could also be a reflection of the need for compassion within the workplace. Maintaining a healthy relationship with those inside and outside of work I believe can boost an individual’s overall morale and job performance.

To expand on the ideas of compassion and separating roles, I wanted to get a hands-on view from a professional. In doing so, I sat down with my current employer Sally White. I wanted to gather as much information about her career, the values she holds and learn about her experiences working within the hospitality industry.

After a busy Monday, we sat down, and I informed her that I didn’t want this to be a formal interview, it was more of an informal conversation. I asked her to tell me about herself, focusing on her likes and interests of her personal life.

“All I’ve known is hospitality, I like being able to mentor people and lead a group of great people. But if we are talking about what happens outside of work, I like cleaning (an OCD type thing I have) and tending my garden but most of all, resting after the long week I have”

With her experience of over 45 years in the industry I learnt that like myself, Sally also started working at the age of 14 in the fast food industry at her local KFC. From here she ran 2 restaurants at the age of 19. She told me:

“Although I was so young, my employers had a strong will to watch me grow and use my skills to full potential. I think this is where my love of mentoring began.”

I then wanted to dig deeper. After 2 years of working with Sally, I realised I know absolutely nothing about her other than she was really great at her job and helping us all do our best each day. I found this interesting considering she has such a large impact on all of our lives. I wanted to know more so I asked what drives you to come to work every day? She responded with:

Family. Over the years I have had the pleasure of raising 4 children of my own but when it comes to work, I feel it growing larger and that’s something I love being a part of. The two; show me nothing but love every day even when things get hard. Over the years I have surrounded myself with some of the most amazing people who will always have an impact on my life and I hold that very close to me.”

We both agreed that it was important to feel part of something both internally and externally to the workplace. I was still intrigued to find out more about Sally, so I dug a little deeper. I continued to ask her; “Do you have a time in your life that you felt you were supported both inside and outside of the workplace?”

Yes, when my husband left me. At the time I was running a restaurant in a small town. I went into my shift, tears running down my face and a complete bubbling mess with thousands of thoughts running through my mind. My boss at the time sat me down and I was repeatedly asking him what will I do about the kids? What’s going to happen now? How am I going to get through this? He looked me dead in the eye and what he said next has stuck with me till this day. He told me; Sally, you’re the best of the best. Everyone around you will support you especially myself but I’ve never known a woman who can’t get through any obstacle as well as you do. You have the ability to change lives so now it’s time to think about yours for a change. And with this, I went on to open four more restaurants, raising my wonderful children to have families of their own and take full control of my own wellbeing.”

This was powerful and with this, she told me that she holds the values of leadership and mentorship very close to her heart. She believes that without those values she would not be where she is today, surrounded by two amazing families of her own. We both bonded over finding the best in any situation and looking positively at the roadblocks we have come up against.

Finally, I wanted to discuss further why she tends to keep these past experiences in instead of sharing. Like most people, she told me that her issues are her issues and she believes they are the reasons that drive her to do her best at her job. I found this interesting, hence why I chose to closely examine this in my piece. We both found that it’s important to separate our career from our personal life because it has the ability to overbear our job ability.

It’s important to understand that through these “work family” relationships both internally and externally from our professional lives that compassion can play a significant role. After talking to Sally as well as doing some research on the topic, I found that this is true. It’s through maintaining a relationship with both sides of our professional lives that allows compassion and the balance of our two lives that enable us to succeed in our careers. After 45 years, Sally says she is the happiest she has ever been because she is in a position where her employers hold a place in her heart and understand her past experiences.

To conclude, I think it’s important to maintain a separation of both our personal and professional lives. Having healthy relationships both internally and externally from our careers allow us to understand the concept of compassion within the workplace. This allows us to excel in our profession as well as understand that a balance between the two is necessary. After sitting down with Sally, I found I learnt more about her in 1 hour than I have in my 2 years at my job. We both understood that work is work and it’s important to focus on one thing at a time. Finding a love for your job allows compassion to come into play, it enables us to do our best work and find that balance between the two lives we live. I finally asked Sally to share some words of advice for readers regarding the best ways to succeed. She said:

“It’s easier to set goals if you list them and one by one you can achieve them. I’ve conquered breast cancer, lost a child and been divorced. I found satisfaction in surrounding myself with the people I raised and the people I worked with. Finding a balance is hard because it gets hard at times but knowing I had the support both inside & outside of work, I knew I was going to be ok. It’s ok to not be ok at times, no one is perfect, just put your energy into doing your best. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my families.”

– Lachy.

References:

Sophia. T 2017, ‘Why Should Employees Keep Their Personal Life Separate From Work Life.’, Web Blog, The Wisdom Post http://www.thewisdompost.com/life/professional-life/why-should-employees-keep-their-personal-life-separate-from-work-life/1069 

J. Lowary 2018, ‘Separating Your Professional and Personal Lives is Easier Than You Think – Ms Career Girl’, Web Blog, Ms Career Girl http://www.mscareergirl.com/separating-your-professional-personal-lives-is-easier-than-you-think/

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