By Renee Martyna/Photo of Hubud by Saskia Athlene Catherine Rysenbry
YOU may be among the many millions who read Tim Ferriss’ book “The 4 Hour Work Week” and felt it changed your life. You are not alone! Bali is teeming with people who dropped traditional careers for the promise of better work-life balance. Some of them are now discovering, however, that designing their lives on Ferriss’ 80- 20 premise was not quite the balance they were looking for.
FACT: Among the many corporate refugees who flock to co-working spaces in Bali every year, ultimately, very few end up working less than they did before. Many work even more! But the good news is, most of them don’t mind. And here’s why: they do work differently.
The American dream revisited
Despite the advances of mass technology and hyper mobility, the holy grail of career management does not seem to have changed much through the ages. Same ethos, different flare for the era. Ferriss’ refashioning of an old American dream—“work hard” (albeit smart) “so you can make enough money to retire early” (as in now)—misses the point that many people actually like working. Or they can, if they do it well.
It’s ironic that just as financial planners are peddling the idea of early retirement, governments worldwide are being lobbied to raise the retirement age; not just because of dwindling pension funds but because too many people still want to work. Depression in retirement and old age is a concern, and many psychologists feel that the loss of meaningful work—that which gets you up every morning—is the main culprit.
As unfashionable as it may sound in these days when self-development gurus preach that it is no longer couth to ask what people ‘do’ the minute you meet them, work is still where most of us draw our sense of identity, community and purpose. So why pretend otherwise? What if the real quest was not to work less, but work better?
Beyond the 4-Hour Workweek
We don’t all aspire to a perpetual vacation. The ‘location independent movement’ often hawks the dream of life with a laptop in one hand and a margarita in the other. While the fantasy is not always off the mark, for many people, it may be a short-lived one. The beach gets boring. What most Knowmads actually want is something much deeper, something the beach points to, but decidedly isn’t: freedom, freshness, play, nature, nurture, and spirited creativity. A chance to do your work in the context of expansiveness. A place to be inspired.
Work-life balance is a decoy
As appealing as this HR innovation sounded to people slaving away in cubicles across the corporate world, we now know that it was a red herring. It conjured the illusion that your life will be happier as long as you scheduled it right; as if there was some magical formula between time spent in and out of the office that would balance you out and have you humming along at Zen. While no one would argue that balancing your hours of work and play is important, the science of human productivity and happiness (and the relationship between them) points to a much more compelling question:
What would work look like if it had more life running through it?
It might mean being able to bring your kids to work when they want to shadow Mommy and Daddy for a day. It might mean working from home when the kids are sick— or when you just need to avoid engaging with people for a while; Meditations mid-morning or yoga in the after- noon when you don’t feel that productive anyway; Lots of connecting with human beings: at the water cooler, at beer-o’clock or at a fabulous health-food restaurant; a place where your private life does not have to be so rigidly divided from the work you do; taking conference calls in your underwear—if that’s how you think better (without the video, of course!). Imagine yourself working sporadic hours, on demand, with no time clock; job-sharing and job shifting. And yes, taking the laptop to the beach on occasion, if that’s what inspires you. It could even mean working round the clock for weeks at a time, then switching off for a month. But these suggestions distract us with details, so the real question is: What does the ideal work-life balance look like for you? Have you ever really asked yourself?
The New World of Work: Is this where you belong?
Community co-working spaces—also known as hubs— are membership-based shared offices at the cutting edge of a movement that goes beyond work-life balance, and aims to put more LIFE in your work. These are places where hierarchies are flattened, dress codes and working hours are interpretive, and the potential for spontaneous and creative collaborations are intensified. Hubsters are the patrons of a new world of work. They are highly mobile—literally and figuratively—because they will consider working with anyone, anytime, anywhere. They rank lifestyle and experience at a level that is, if not above, than at least on par, with churning capital because they see work as much more than just making a living. It IS living.
Who and what do we see in these spaces? In this new world, work is an integrative exercise, where who you are, what you believe, and what you feel called to do on this planet blends seamlessly with the work that keeps you waking up each morning. For some people, this means developing a heightened sensitivity to previously over- looked aspects of being in business, like bringing emotional, spiritual and even Kinesthetic intelligences to bear on business practices. It could also mean being eco-literate; giving back; collaborating freely; and feeling like the people who work beside you are not just colleagues, but part of your community. It’s different for everyone, but the point is this: these are spaces where it’s okay to experiment with the options.
Forget work smart. Work well.
Bali now offers a number of co-working venues for you to choose from. Check out LineUp Hub on Sunset Blvd. (www.lineuphub.co), Hubud in Ubud (www.hubud.org) or the Salty Volt at Echo Beach (www.saltyvolt.com). The international network of Hubs is growing across the globe. You can learn more about them here http://www.impacthub.net/. If you want to learn more about how to leave conventional work behind, Turnpoint offers courses and retreats in Bali on how to do it. www.turnpoint.io
Renee Martyna is a perpetual Knowmad, a Conversation Curator with www.ChangeinConversation.com, mother to two Third Culture Kids and partner to a serial social entrepreneur. She has lived in Bali since 2009.