What Work-Life Balance Looks Like According to Microsoft

A Microsoft logo is pictured during the presentation of the Xbox One - Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Some say Americans have grown to be a little soft. Our constant outrage at even the most mundane and innocent of things spills forth on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. It feeds our 24-hour news cycle with a constant stream of content, and moves virally across our social networks through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s probably fair to say that we, as a culture, could take a break from the cynicism and try to look at the bright side, rather than constantly nitpicking and showering everything with a heavy sense of skepticism.

Case in point, there has been an outcry from a number of Americans following the release of a new advertising campaign from Microsoft, which some say pushes the idea that workers need to be working 24 hours a day. An article from The Washington Post has compiled all the pieces of the ad, which include images like these:

These images, along with a handful of others, were met with some concerns about the work-life balance, which is fair, to be sure. As The Washington Post article goes on to say, there are tons of studies providing evidence of how unhealthy and counterproductive having employees work too hard is, and that’s really what the center issue is with this Microsoft campaign.

The campaign itself appears to have its roots back in 2013, as a part of Microsoft’s #GetItDone marketing blitz. In essence, the campaign was meant to show off the new Office 360 platform, which allows for cloud access to the company’s products. That means employees don’t have to be on a particular computer or in a particular building in order to access needed programs and data.

In essence, workers can log on and work on a spreadsheet whether they were at the office, at a park, or yes, even on the toilet.

While those worried about Microsoft’s campaign may have a broader point — that America should re-examine its work culture and find ways to improve it — it may be better to see this for what it truly is: a marketing campaign. We have to think that no one, not even Microsoft execs, want to be working all day or every day and that even though that’s the theme some people have latched on to with these ads, it wasn’t intentional.

After all, Microsoft’s products are aimed at making work easier, not more difficult or time-consuming. The premise behind this whole campaign is probably more in line with the fact that workers don’t necessarily need to be tied to their desks anymore to get things done. Because of that trend new programs, applications, and workflows are necessary to cater to the employee on the go.

As for getting work done on the toilet, or while in bed, it’s hard to think that employers would actually want their employees doing either one of those things, let alone expect it. And that’s the big difference here — abilities versus expectations. Many people probably have the ability to work remotely already, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are expected to be on call 24/7. There are always going to be exceptions, and for employers who do think employees should be on the clock at all hours an adjustment in the wage scale is probably in order to reflect that.

Or, they could just run the risk of burning out their employees completely, and losing them to another, less demanding firm. Because of that risk, and the costs associated with tracking down and training new talent, employers have an incentive to make sure their employees are happy and energized — not feeling forced to work from the bathroom.

Again, those worried about work slowly but surely creeping into all areas of our lives, including incredibly personal time, or time spent with family and friends, do have a point. There is plenty of reason to worry about a proper work-life balance, and maintaining a healthy amount of time for recreation and family.

But to think that Microsoft is advocating for 24-hour employees? That’s a bit of a stretch.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger

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