Friday, 20 May 2011

work life balance

So all this social media stuff these days makes it difficult to keep work and home life separate. I currently have two facebook pages and have just started to tweet and I am realising that keeping bits of yourself separate is quite difficult.

When I started this blog it was partly so that Andy had an online repository of recipes, for me to record recipes and general chit chat for friends and family - it resolutely stayed clear of of other areas of my life - like work, politics and having Lupus and M.E. They do sometimes get a mention but they are not dwelt on. I worried about mixing them and about whether if I mentioned work and what I made last night for dinner in the same post that somehow made the work stuff less profesional and the home stuff less fun. It is more difficult these days to shut the door behind you and create that space. But at the same time sometimes the overlap can be positive.

One of things I have realised recently is how much I enjoy that Andy shares the same area of work - diabetes. We have quite different jobs and careers and also quite different interests in general - proving the opposites attract rule. He has a phd and works with other very clever people in health informatics and I can barely get my head round what he does - I do a job and have a career that at times defies definition. Campaigning, public affairs, policy development, planning etc - what does all that mean? I always struggle when you get a form with a drop down menu and you have to chose your profession - teacher, doctor, mechanic, lawyer, nurse, shop assistant - why don't I have an easily defined profession? It seemed that our work was definitely an area where we would always have little in common. But we do both share a keen sense of wanting to have jobs where we can see a line between what we do and making a positive difference in someone's life. Well, that can sound a bit cheesey and ultimately we need to pay the mortgage but we have always made decisions that once the bills are paid we pick jobs we enjoy and that match that goal. Diabetes has been the first time we have overlapped.

One of the interesting things about this has been how we have dealt with sharing our work and also drawing boundaries around it. Andy works with patient data and supports research - so sometimes he won't tell me what he is working on. Sometimes the first time I know what he has been doing is when a paper is published or an announcement made. Equally there are things I sometimes don't tell him - like the content of presentations I am about to do at conferences he is in the audience of. We have worked out a way of keeping those issues separate.

But what has been lovely is when we are tackling a problem or feeling a sense of achivement with things at work we can share it - and we can share a general sense of working together towards something. Andy knows me better than anyone so while the fact that his ability to read my mind isn't always a good thing, it is lovely to be able to be totally open and know the person you are talking to 'gets you'.

As well as Andy and I sharing diabetes, I have realised that working with people the way we do at Diabetes UK Scotland means you are allowed to be a person as well as a role. There always has to be a line, of course, but some of my favourite moments have not been in meetings or writing reports - some have been when a volunteer has offered me hospitality in their home after a long day and made me feel welcome or when the team takes a break to play with a team member's daughter after nursery. Sometimes it is when you are exhausted and are really not looking forward to taking the train home when you realise the short lift to the station you were being given is taking twenty minutes and in fact your colleague has decided to drive you home to help you out.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that we are all human and not mechanical parts that can be separated and then put back together easily. It is good to have boundaries. It is good to be professional. But I think maybe my virtual on-line kitchen could do with a bit more of a peak at the other rooms in the house a bit more often. Anyway, once the new house is finished a seem of blogging material will run dry and I will need the material! And if John Halamka can have a blog that combines his high profile work in American healthcare with how to build a birdhouse then why can't we all?

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