There's a trend in the gadget world that is a little disturbing to me.
As you may know, tech companies are targeting Millennials like never before. In 2015, the number of Millennials finally surpassed Baby Boomers, so those under 35 now make up the largest workforce in the U.S.--numbering 74.5 million. That's a lot of people buying smartphones and laptops! It's why companies like Acer make crazy reptilian-like gaming desktops that appear to have scales and why there are cases for your iPhone in bright neon green. (Shield your eyes on those.)
Yet, it's also why a few marketers have used the expression "one life" with me lately. They didn't know I was rolling my eyes during the call.
The term is a new way of explaining how work-life integration has replaced work-life balance, but for Millennials, it's a dangerous term. It implies that you should work all day, all evening, and maybe all night and on weekends.
The underlying point makes sense in some ways. If you buy a new smartphone or laptop, you'll probably use it for work and play. The devices are powerful enough to function in both realms of existence, and a colorful phone case is now acceptable at work. It's tempting, too, because "one life" is easier when you have one phone.
Here's the problem. We now know a lot more about why it's so important to have downtime, to take breaks, and to even work only four days a week. Your brain can't handle sustained periods of high productivity. It's like running a marathon everyday. You receive an incredible boost in your work output if you set the work aside and go take a nap on a houseboat somewhere or bike through the woods. When gadget companies keep saying "one life" they don't know that the hidden message to Millennials is "work more" and use our device to do that.
A better approach is to have different devices you use for work and play. It creates a clearer separation between what you do for a living and what you do to relax. It might cost more, but having a work laptop is a reminder that you're at work. If you switch over to a personal laptop, it means you won't be as tempted to check work email or write work documents. As for a phone, I recommend the same approach. Phones are now more affordable than ever. Use one for work and one that doesn't have any work contacts on it at all. If you're using a personal phone, no one can contact you because they won't even know the number. Store a completely different set of apps on your work phone; use a different browser and load up a bunch of games.
It's a radical step but it works wonders. The point is: The message behind "one life" is inherently flawed. We have two lives. The goal is not to have so much work-life integration that we don't even know the difference anymore. It means, the "one life" people have no life. They won't spend time with their kids, they won't experience any adventures in the real world. They'll be hooked up to a smartphone like someone might be hooked up to an IV. But a phone doesn't provide any sustenance. It doesn't meet any of our emotional needs. It's a purely functional device.
Maybe you'd say it's not so bad. It's OK to use one gadget all day and makes things easier. I disagree. To separate work and personal, you have to take radical steps. It's become too tempting to work constantly. If you run a company, you might even hand a new employee two phones and two laptops. It would send a clear message: We want your work to be one part of your life. Not all of it.