As our homes and offices become increasingly intertwined, boundary lines have faded, and in some cases vanished. For some, the shift to hybrid and remote work has been transformative, while for others, such as in-house counsel, what is a welcome change also comes with new challenges. Where previously the office was a sanctuary, a place where work was the focus, the home office has become a mess of moving parts: parent, in-house counsel; partner, in-house counsel; bin night in-house counsel.
Asim Khan, InView Champion and International Commercial Counsel at Personio, revels in his multiple roles of partner to Halima, father of Maryam and Hana, and in-house counsel, each of them bringing him joy and adding a different dimension to his life.
He attributes the shift to remote work as contributing to his increased attentiveness to the work-life balance and appreciates how it enables him to spend more quality time with his loved ones. “It has really opened up the whole concept of work-life balance. I don't have a hefty commute, I have the ability to move away from my desk whenever I want, and I get more time to spend with my daughters."
While Khan says he is now able to plan his days better, he's also aware that these new affordances don’t come without challenges. Time spent in one arena must be juggled with time spent or taken away from others. And finding the right balance hasn't been easy.
"I've set myself boundaries, such as having something to do after working hours - my children definitely hold me to account there. Of course, there are occasions when working overtime is necessary and my advice to anyone trying to find the right work-life balance, is to set clear boundaries and hold yourself accountable to them."
For Khan, the challenge becomes about when to switch off. "Without the commute, I find myself logging in at silly hours because that block has disappeared. It's about understanding the need to switch off, that it shouldn't be the norm to be on the clock 24/7.
"I have learned to park the feeling I had when I first started working remotely about having to work longer to prove my worth. It's something I would encourage others to take onboard."
He admits that while it is great getting to spend more time with his daughters, he's had to learn how to juggle the pressures of being an at-home, on-tap dad with his career. How does he manage the distractions of unexpected interruptions such as the kids knocking on his office door and their demands for his attention?
"Interruptions can be good and bad. They can be welcome when they allow you to take a break, to take your mind elsewhere, and on the flip side they also come at exactly the wrong time, when you are on a call or in the middle of something. I have learned to go with the flow, to manage interruptions as something normal, and to not get stressed about them."
Khan is currently trialing a 'Do not disturb' sign on his office door. Results to date are mixed.
Keeping all the balls afloat can make it hard for counsel to find the time to be themselves - not a parent, a partner or lawyer - just the person. There is a danger that if you lose your balance, all these competing priorities can begin to crash around you.
“It's hard to get me time," he admits. "During a working day, I'm in lawyer mode and then I have to switch off and move into partner or father mode. It’s difficult, there is often a crossover, but it's also a learning experience. I've used the opportunity to pick up some old hobbies which have helped push back my need to be in work mode. I can switch off and get away from my screen."
Life is a juggling act, learning to live and work from his home base a work in progress, but Khan wouldn't trade what has become his new normal. It's a new normal he shares with many the world over.