Once upon a time....
I want to tell you a story about work life balance, about working men and women, about kids and the platitudes that 'women cannot have it all'. This story is about what happens when you use a wide angled lens and when we use tools like service design to generate a work life balance of the adjacent possible...
The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.
The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven't visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn't have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you'll have built a palace.
Work life balance succeeds or fails on the dedication of the individual and the support of the business...
I have 2 children and I work for one of Australia’s big 4 banks (the break up one). I work full time. My employer is very supportive of flexible work options and work life balance.
So why do I feel so stressed... ? It MUST be my fault huh...
The value of my employer's flexible working options are diminshed because my city does not support work/life balance and flexible work.
- 9 km from Melbourne City Centre
- 12 km from home to work...
- ...in one of the world's most liveable cities.
Travel time : up to 1 hour and 20 minutes
Parking: $15 - $30 per day
Cost: - 2 1/12 hours of wasted time doing nothing
- environmentally costly, pollution, noise..
- Communities choked by traffic, reduced family and social time.
Personal: up to 2 1/2 hours a day sitting in a car instead of being at work or with family.
Then there’s evenings – in peak hour it can take up to 50 minutes just to get out of Docklands, and then there’s the tunnel, the eastern suburb tram/bike and car loaded roads… To be sure of being at school by 6 I MUST leave work at 4.30 at the latest.
Travel time : 7 mins to station, 25 mins to Docklands – 35 ish mins.
Parking: $0… but...
have to get to the car park by 7.25 to get a park.
Cost: - Long days at work
- Very early starts that don’t line up with school hours or care hours.
- Stressful – lack of parking, crowded trains, poor facilities for ticket purchase.
Cost: - Long days spent neither at work or with family.
...and it's not just transport
Before school care starts at 7, and after school care finishes at 6…
If I drop my children at 9 - the earliest I can get to work is really 10.
- Can’t take the train – no parking.
- Tram – doesn’t get me to work until 10.20
- Driving, well I’ll get there, in about 50 minutes. I may miss early bird parking, parking now $30 /day.
Maximum stress, always worrying about being late, unfocussed in meetings as it gets close to time to leave… Not quite feeling like I'm doing anything well... complex work and childcare arrangements to cater for…um.. who..??
All the benefit of my employer's flexible work offerings are diluted...
Communities….? Families…? Workplaces…? Sustainability..? um nope…..
We've designed a service landscape that:
- Reduces productivity
- Increases anxiety and stress
- Has gridlocked our cities
- Created clogged roads and dirty polluted streets
- Reduces time that families and communities can spend together.
- Works against flexible workplace initiatives put in place in industry
Dream dream dream...
The story might look something like this.....
I wake up on a work day. My kids can choose to attend their base school (in the community) or their other school - in Docklands. The Interwebs mean that the curriculum is the same, but they get a broader range of teacher, friends and belonging - a new resilience. They belong in two communities.
The public transport system considers families and investment takes place to support it. It takes a 20 minute trip on a tram with my kids to eat breakfast by the water. We eat lunch together in my workplace and instead of after school care and rushing across town, they come to a space at work. Because we're in town we go for a meal in one of the many restaurants to talk, laugh and miss the traffic. Local businesses have whole new opportunities for business, city based schools use city facilities. Then we’d travel home together with time to talk about the day and arrive home with a spare – well at least 1½ hours in our day….
- School didn’t start at 9 and finish at 3.30
- School/community/business better integrated their efforts to produce a dynamic adaptive system.
- Education and transport and business worked together to look at new patterns in the complexity.
- Councils built multi storey car parks so that more people could take trains?
- State built rail links and supported trams.
- Kids in docklands meant a flourishing and rediscovery of the area?
- Workplaces had children in them? (sometimes)
- Corporate investment in work life and flexible work initiatives was fully supported by courageous and integrative thinking around services…
Happy families, happy workers, happy businesses......
And imagine the opportunities we might uncover with the extra time!