Plenty of people are already “blurring”, they just don’t know they are. Examples include all the employees or entrepreneurs who take their personal smartphones or tablets to work in the morning and bring home their Netbook Pros! This growing trend is one of the key factors fuzzing the line between professional and private lives. “Blurring” is increasingly accepted and vindicated. It adds a touch of fun to work and revolutionizes business travel.
Connecting two worlds
“Blurring” is the term that has been coined to refer to the gradual fuzzing of the line between professional and private lives. It is a trend that has been accentuated by the spread of NICTs (1). In short, at work, everyone now feels they are entitled to take a break to browse the social networks, do some online shopping or send a few text messages to their loved ones about plans for the weekend. However, in just the same way, work also now encroaches on private life on weekday evenings, at weekends and during holidays. Indeed, the emails don’t let up and employees keep checking them.
The boundary between these two apparently incompatible spheres is not that old. In Western countries it only dates back to the 19th century. Prior to that, most people were rural workers who toiled together as families. Of course in those days nobody referred to this as “blurring”! The industrial revolution really did cause a Big Bang with the emergence of two new worlds: the business world and the private world, two separate spheres, as detached from one another as two planets.
Did we wait for the advent of the Internet and smartphones to blur the line between our private and professional worlds? Of course not, before them, people still wrote shopping lists at work, listened to music and chatted to colleagues about their weekend. However, it is definitely much easier now to cross from one world into another. For example, you may have heard of “BYOD” (2). This trend is a byproduct of “blurring” whereby employees bring their own devices to work: telephones, tablets and personal portable computers. These devices are the Trojan Horses through which the private sphere has entered the world of business and is here to stay. And exactly the same can be said about the professional devices brought back into people’s homes!
A recent Pullman and Ipsos survey (3) of international travelers who stay in midscale and upscale hotels, actually puts a figure to the current proportion of interconnections between these two worlds. For example, up to 61% of the survey responders said they take their portable professional devices on holiday or home at weekends (4). What is more, one third of the responders acknowledged that they spend half an hour a day on the Internet for private reasons (reading online news, consulting bank accounts, on social networks, etc.).
Good vibes at work
Rather than muddle communications, most employers have chosen to establish a tacit moral contract authorizing the overlapping of the two spheres. This exchange of good practices was indispensable! As far as employees are concerned, over four in five managers surveyed believe that having a portable professional device enables them to work more easily and manage their responsibilities better. Nearly nine out of ten consider that these devices allow them to stay in touch with their loved ones.
Executives in emerging economies are particularly keen on blurring. Portable professional devices are most widespread among the Brazilians and the Chinese who are also the most avid “blurrers”. 100% of them work in private settings (at least occasionally) and 99% of them browse the web for personal reasons when they are in the office (at least occasionally). Most importantly, a large majority of them (66%) do not consider blurring a source of stress.
The same cannot be said of Westerners, who are a lot less enthusiastic about blurring! 85% of Americans believe that portable professional devices harm their private life. One fourth even hide from their loved ones when they use them at home! What is the reason for these differing opinions? First, executives in emerging countries tend to be younger and are more used to new technologies. Second, they are probably more optimistic about their future and the future of their fast growing country of origin. This might also explain their more flexible approach to the changes.
Blurring could potentially lead to an in-depth transformation of the way executives organize their work. With the new technologies they can work remotely because these are often the only devices they need to fulfill their tasks. They have several options: they can continue to work in the office, work from home or become fully-fledged nomad workers. The question is, where do these neo-workers go to work?
Some of them go to coffee shops and sit among students and tourists working incognito behind their computer screens. However, coffee shops are often very noisy and workers are sometimes obliged to consume in order to stay there. Others go to the library and run the opposite risk of working in a rather austere setting. This is why an increasing number of nomad workers choose to work in what is known as a “third place”.
Third places are the new coworking sites used by workers, entrepreneurs or teleworkers. These new hybrid venues offer both open space offices, cafes and bars and conference rooms that can be used in the evenings for cocktail parties and concerts! In short, they are an excellent way of mixing professional and private interests.
Ultimately, blurring is a mindset. If people increasingly work outside office hours then it is normal that they should expect more comfort and fulfilment in their working environment…Even if that means pushing back frontiers! Therefore, why not work as a tourist? How? By travelling from one coworking site to another. For example, from the Numa in Paris’ Sentier district, to the Terminal in Tokyo, via Maquinita in Buenos Aires’ Palermo Soho district. In casual attire of course!
Aficionados will get so hooked they will no longer go on vacation, but on “coworcation” to dream coworking sites such as Surf Office in the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain. There, within minutes, the executive can shut his computer, grab a board and dive into the water.
Double life, double game!
Blurring the line between work time and private time is precisely the aim of Accor’s Pullman hotels. Last year, this upscale brand anticipated the expectations of its cosmopolitan, hyper-connected guests by unveiling its new positioning under the auspicious slogan: “Work hard, play hard!”
For Xavier Louyot, Vice President Global Marketing, Pullman, “the balance between professional life and private life is embodied in each of the unprecedented experiences offered by Pullman hotels. For example, half the people who use our business centers, which are known as Connectivity by Pullman lounges and are developed in partnership with Microsoft and Samsung, are leisure customers. Another example, the new Business Playground by Pullman boardroom, created in collaboration with designer Mathieu Lehanneur and which is already available in the vibrant Pullman London St Pancras, is also a concrete expression of balancing performance and pleasure.”
The centerpiece of the Business Playground by Pullman is the “Poker Table”, which was specifically designed to make participants want to lean in, rest their elbows on the table edge, get caught up in the meeting game and participate.
Pullman has also started a collection of contemporary art, which it exhibits in its hotels and even in the rooms in order to stimulate executives’ creativity during their stays. The food and beverage offer has also been reinvented at Pullman with the CuisinMotion philosophy. This 24/7 offer is adapted to each establishment’s local specificities and comprises a range of signature services: Vinoteca by Pullman, for vintage wine tasting, Tea Deli by Pullman to enjoy flavors from around the world and Tapastry by Pullman for afterwork gatherings!
Even Pullman’s new logo, inspired by the Yin and Yang symbol, represents the balance between business and leisure. Executives around the world now seek this equilibrium so they can work while experiencing personal fulfilment whether they are in their usual work environment or travelling…
1 : New Information and Communication Technologies
2 : Bring Your Own Device
3 : “Blurring professional and private lives – managers, the new masters of time” This online survey is based on a sample of 2,252 travelers who stay at mid and upscale hotels and are aged between 25 and 65. It was carried out in seven countries: France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, Brazil, Australia, and China. About two-thirds of responders were taken from an Ipsos access panel and one-third from Pullman’s customer data base. The survey was conducted between June 27 and August 6, 2013.
4 : All the figures in this article are taken from the afore-mentioned survey.
NB: Article on hotel industry trends drafted by the Accor Group’s communication department.