I’ve made great efforts to keep my work and home life separate. I go to the office when others relish “working from home.” I like to go to the office because it is a physical space designed for work. I like my work to be conducted within defined hours. I like to be able to leave work (and with my unassuming job, this is still mostly possible) and hypothetically not be bothered with it until I return.
One reason for my insistence on keeping the office space separate from home is that my experience working for pay at home was dismal. The work was part-time, but I invariably put in more than my share of hours. Tremendous guilt would descend if time were spent in the kitchen wiping down counters or preparing lunch. The worst part was there was no change of venue to clearly indicate when it was time to move from work mode to leisure. It was always work mode, as files and other reminders of work were piled around the house.
There is increasing pressure for people to merge their private and public identities, and I am mystified why this would be a good idea for the Average Joe or Jane. For those people whose work life is not tied to the clock—some CEOs and public figures, and possibly some academics and bloggers, it makes sense. Personally, I don’t want to check work email before going to bed or first thing in the morning. In fact, my work email is just that. It is separate, and not filtered through my private account, and I generally don’t check work email on weekends.
Social media applications are compelling users to merge their public and private identities, and I don’t think this is a good thing. This last week Skype announced that one can now log in with Facebook. Well, I don’t want to log in with Facebook.
Facebook itself is the nexus of the public/private problem. I was a late adopter, and most of by FB friends are high school classmates, many whom I have not clamped eyes on for more than a quarter-century. I am grateful to FB for kindling these connections, but then when I am asked to connect with someone that I know professionally, the button goes unclicked. And it is not because that I don’t like or respect this person, it is that I just don’t want her to be mixed into my bucket of friends. FB has since made an effort to let users divide friends, but I am not confident that this will always be the case. FB is continually making tweaks that upset the masses. Because of the quasi-public nature of FB, I also hide my innately shallow and frivolous nature by not liking new nail polish colors or novel recipes using snack foods. This is certainly not information I would like shared with my boss (or the head of HR).
As for Skype, my user name is on the cute side. Just the other day a colleague overseas asked me about Skype on my work computer, and I said that I had it once, but IT scrubbed it as a security risk, but I could ask for it to be reinstalled (admin password needed). If I ever get Skype at the office, I will have to reveal what I regard to be my personal nickname. Then this opens up the possibility that I can be Skyped by this person at any time to hash over a new idea.
My cellphone, which I pay for as a private person, is used for work from time to time. It is not enough to quibble about, but enough to be noted, as my cellphone is a means of production not owned by management.
Work email is a problem. While I have been with my current employer for a substantial period of time, I regard my work identity as temporary and open to change. My login email with LinkedIn is my work email, mostly because I was using LinkedIn for work. However, trouble could ensure if I ever thought about looking for a new job using LinkedIn as a resource.
When I’m at the office, and working, and using internet applications, I want this to be completely separate from when I am browsing at home. It isn’t Amazon’s fault that it makes book suggestions based on the books that I purchase for my boss.
With the mixing and mingling of my working identity with my private self, I feel I’m losing is that little space between the “office me” and the “home me.” Technology is wonderful, and I can barely remember the dark days before there was a computer on every lap. But I don’t want technology to force me into working more hours than I’m legally obligated to—no matter how well it is cloaked as a convenience.