Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Changing speed and shifting gears in portfolio working

In ‘Juggle!’ I talk about the need to be adept at shifting gears in multi-dimensional work lives. That seems more common than ever. Martha Lane Fox wrote in the FT Diary at the weekend: “The portfolio life is generally fantastic but occasionally I find the range of meetings surreal. One day this week started in the Cabinet Office in my role as Digital Champion, talking about my review of government websites, and then moved quickly into the world of karaoke and Lucky Voice, the karaoke company I cofounded and now chair.”

That mirrors my own experience; days that range from a meeting in a coffee shop off Southend High St to the rather different surroundings of the Groucho Club; from a chat with a small business on a trading estate in Essex to a conference call with the States.

Simon Kuper wrote a piece recently in the Weekend FT magazine ‘Stuck in the rush hour of life’ (sign-in may be required) that introduces the notion of ‘changing speed’ alongside gear shifting. Simon talks about working couples replacing the sole male breadwinner in a new extended career trend that matches the modern life-course: “In the new career, these dual earners will work for 45 years, during which time they will periodically change speeds. They can start in the fast lane, working full-time until they have kids. Then many men as well as women will want a spell in the slow lane, even if it means a pay cut”.

That concept of ‘changing speeds’ also resonates with my portfolio life. A typical week sees a couple of days of meetings in London, perhaps a day in another city, with a couple of days working from my home office/ a neighbourhood café sandwiched in between. On those more flexible days I can change speed to collect my two year old from pre-school, then shift – seamlessly – back to work. I call it ‘work/life integration’. The downside is the inevitable never-switching-off, forever checking the iPhone. The upside, the autonomy/the flexibility.

Whatever you label it, it’s clear that as more of us move to work/life integration, the distinction between the ‘professional’ and ‘personal’ sides of our lives are blurring (hat tip to Shane Mac who tweeted about the blurring of professional vs personal).

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