You might have stumbled upon this CNN.com article in May earlier this year.
As I was churning through a few things to write about today the word “weisure” popped into my head again. I’d read the article, but hadn’t really thought about it much.
The article defines weisure (a combination of the words work and leisure just to be clear) as the blurring of the boundary between work and play. Advances in technology have made it far, far easier to take care of business while hanging out at home with our families. And, vice versa.
“’Many who haven’t already abandoned the 9-to-5 workday for the 24-7 life of weisure probably will do so soon,’ according to New York University sociologist Dalton Conley, who coined the word. It’s the next step in the evolving work-life culture.”
This is a new word alright. Even spell-check questions it!
My first “real” full-time job fresh out of college was at the tail end of the 1980s. The hottest piece of technology in our office (other than the constantly busy coffee maker) was our fax machine.
While I love technology, I was a bit late incorporating it into my life. Other than the joyous Commodore 64 my folks purchased back in the early 1980s, well, that was chiefly for fun. I’d rarely touched a computer in college to write papers. Personal computers were either owned by the wealthier students or available by a sign-up list in our computer lab. Another option? The lone Mac and dot matrix printer in a small “office” (really, a spare closet) at the end of the hall upstairs in my sorority house. I’ll also sheepishly admit that it wasn’t until my senior year that I was comfortable using a copy machine! You see, I’d never worked in an office before. My college summer jobs were spent cashiering at a huge department store on my feet all day, not behind a desk.
So in this first office job I was the receptionist. Yes, I got to make coffee, answer phones, greet guests, hang up coats, type and file. Boy, I was pretty good at typing and filing! Every morning I would walk to the back room where the fax machine sat, greeted by a pile of that old-school curly thermal fax paper which had spilled over the countertop onto the floor. (Our parent company was overseas, so while our workday was ending, theirs was just beginning.)
Every morning was a daily battle to flatten out that awful, stubborn and curly fax paper, sorting which page went where (or slicing it up by page if it had spewed out in a long, continuous stuck-together loop like a roll of paper towels out of control). Then, photocopying. Know what our communication method was? We were a small office of just six people, and everyone’s business was everyone’s business. I had to make a copy of each fax for each person in the office, staple them, and place them face down on each person’s desk. Then I filed the curly originals in a manila folder, sorted by week and month.
Sounds a bit quaint, doesn’t it? Fast forward 10 years and not only did I have my own personal computer at home, but a laptop for work. And, a remote connection to our corporate network.
The late 1990s job was my first taste of weisure. I remember the pang of panic I felt feeling behind and out of the loop with email one morning because I hadn’t yet read the long, heated discussion that had bubbled up at midnight (by local colleagues, so time zones weren’t the issue here). I started checking my work email remotely before I went to bed each night. I forwarded my desk phone number to my cell when I was away from the office. Now I could take calls just about anywhere – the grocery store, in the car, or even right out of the shower with wet hair in a bathrobe. Yes, the lines were starting to blur. Depending on the group I was working with, I didn’t really need to be in the office every day. But I did have to be available and responsive, however, as did all of us.
Posting on social networking sites and checking home email during work is now more and more common. In between working, we can pay bills online, reply to a text, do a few clicks to purchase those coveted boots which are now available – thanks to an email notification, chat over instant messaging with a friend, tweak that spreadsheet on shared network space and respond to client emails. And oh, wow – pictures of my friend’s kid’s birthday party just popped up on Facebook…
How many browser windows do YOU keep simultaneously open?
Is it healthy for us to not worry about when or how we’re getting work done, as long as it gets done? Does it really matter that I negotiated a business deal on my cell standing in my underwear in a department store dressing room rather than sitting at my desk (and fully clothed)?
Is it wise to bitch about a conference call on Facebook or Twitter during the actual call? Now that I have no work commute due to having no job I am on social networking sites much more often during the day. Call me naive, but I am shocked how much complaining and venting about work goes on…during the workday! And as the week winds up it’s a steady stream of “TGIF,” or “the weekend is finally heeeeeeeeeeeere!!”
There are so many of us out of work who would love to be working right now. And yet I have friends who are absolutely bored to death or feeling miserable about their jobs. Or, simply ready for a break from the burnout. What a dichotomy! Over dinner one night I shared my job hunt updates with a friend, while my friend in turn shared a dream to take a (unpaid) sabbatical from a well-established job and we talked about ideas on how to make it happen.
While I appreciate not feeling “on call” when not working, I do like the weisure movement. As the artricle so eloquently states, what we’re doing now will seem very quaint, just as working vs. playing “rules” from 50 years ago might seem now.
And, with my tongue very firmly planted in my cheek, let me close with some advice on what NOT to ask someone you work with when making small talk over the phone or email:
What are you wearing?