Working from home has made me appreciate what an outmoded concept work- life balance has become for me.

It would be different if I were commuting to an office to do a job which I left at the end of the day and came back to the next morning.

But that was another lifetime ago.

My commute, after I roll out of bed in the mornings, is a walk down the stairs to the study to power up the computer and then the kitchen to get a cup of tea.

I don't have to think about how long I should be in the office or negotiate the number of hours to give to work or family. It is more fluid and all one thing now.

Given the downsides of mass transportation and so on, I don't see why home offices wouldn't be the more efficient, cost-saving and environmentally sustainable default setting of the future.

Today, the Internet, 3G and smartphones have broken down the traditional barriers of space and enabled near- universal accessibility. We are evolving a new paradigm for how we work.

Furthermore, we are raising a new generation of workers who are used to online communications, both by text and video, and multi-tasking from a home base.

A friend mentioned with wonder the other day how her 18-year-old daughter managed to accomplish all her chores in between catching up on the latest Korean drama. "If it were me, I would work first, then watch," said her mother, "but she seems to get it done."

Bosses may think workers are more productive in an office environment without the distractions of home (and where they can be watched), but there are plenty of distractions anywhere you can be online.

What wasn't productive were the long hours I used to spend lashed to my desk as a rookie reporter while my stories were being edited. We didn't even have pagers in those days. Today, we can call, text or e-mail reporters with questions. They could be out with friends or home with family and it wouldn't matter.

I am glad about that because one reason I moved away from Singapore was to find better work-life balance.

It sounds like a drastic solution but I was getting tired of promising my kids I would be home for dinner and breaking it every single time. Eventually, my husband told me either to be home in time to eat with them or after the kids had gone to bed. Anything in between would just disrupt the bedtime routine.

You could say I moved halfway across the world to be home for dinner every night. Not only that, I'm now also the one who cooks.

People say the downside of working from home is precisely the lack of separation between church and state, so to speak, but I don't know if that is really as dreary as it sounds, when the trade-off is flexibility.

If, like me, you are best in the mornings, useless in the afternoons and find a second wind in the night, then working from home could very well suit your natural circadian rhythms.

I guess the challenge is to overcome the mindset of working as though one were in the office and counting the number of hours one spends at the desk as an indication of productivity.

In search of a reboot, I was intrigued when I heard an interview on the radio recently with the author of a new book on the Business Secrets Of The Trappist Monks.


These are the denizens of Mepkin Abbey in Charleston, South Carolina, whom IT entrepreneur Augie Turak first went to visit 17 years ago on a personal spiritual quest.

Soon he became fascinated by how the monks were able to create successful businesses from behind the cloistered walls of the abbey, mainly in growing and selling first eggs and now exotic mushrooms. They also run a gift shop and convention centre, among other things.

How do a group of 20 senior citizens who work four hours a day (and mostly pray the rest of the time) achieve this?

What was interesting to me was how the monks did not see their work as separate from their spiritual monastic lives. Work was a form of prayer for them and prayer was a form of work, said Mr Turak.

What they had was an overarching higher mission for life that made everything they did an offering.

You don't have to be religious to see how working to a higher purpose could be valuable, even if the purpose is simply to lead a considered and balanced life.

Maybe the lesson of the monks is whatever you do, to do it wholeheartedly. It should not be a work-versus-life equation as though work was the necessary evil one has to weigh on the scale against the real business of "life".

Bosses and workers, take note.