Blended Lifestyles - TheStreet

Blended Lifestyles

Combining work and pleasure is good business strategy.
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Remember the days when husbands would tearfully kiss their wives goodbye, pat the kids on the head and embark on that annual two-week business trip during which their families waited for a lone letter or hurried pay-phone call?

Well you shouldn't, because the days of business vs. pleasure are fading fast.

Today's working professional increasingly looks for a blended lifestyle, and nobody understands this better than Dan Pink, leading business consultant and best-selling author of the book

A Whole New Mind

.

"Traditionally people kept the two spheres of their professional and personal lives separate, and never the twain shall meet," says Pink, but companies today are learning to cater to a mix of two worlds.

"People are bringing their kids or spouse on business trips," says Pink. "A generation ago that was unthinkable."

When Worlds Collide

In a huge cultural shift, professionals are melding business and personal rather than balancing two separate lives, Pink continues.

As people get richer and devote more time to the job, says Pink, their level of satisfaction is stagnating. "People are looking for a higher sense of meaning and purpose," he says, so they are bringing their personal identities to the office desk.

In a broad sense, U.S. culture is taking a more holistic approach to life, crossing boundaries and merging leisure and business.

Go into a

Starbucks

, pick anyone at random and "at that moment and space,

they are toggling the personal and professional," says Pink.

Specifically, Pink sees workers increasingly bringing family into their business lives in hopes that the two worlds will enhance and enrich each other.

"For some reason, my daughter wanted to go to Canada with me," Pink says regarding a recent business trip he took, during which he showed the 9-year-old Sophia how he earned a living and she got to explore Toronto.

Much of the business environment still clings to the old convention of checking personal life at the door, Pink continues, but technology has changed that by giving people as much power in a single laptop as existed at an entire Fortune 500 company 25 years ago.

The two Bs (broadband and BlackBerrys) allow people to perform business duties far from the office while remaining engaged in their personal lives.

Even more significantly, the very nature of the work environment has shifted drastically. Companies are focused more on results, not face time at the office and punching the clock.

"If you want to keep talented people, let them be who they are," and let them blend lifestyles at will, Pink explains.

A Better Blend

In a quest to find a balance between the two spheres, people have come up with some very inventive ways to meld their work and home, Pink says.

For one man who worked from his house, the office and home were too close for comfort, so he set up shop in a willing neighbor's place. "People look for settings that allow them to blend their lives how they want," Pink notes.

A consumer study commissioned by Hyatt revealed that about 90% of 400 American travelers surveyed said they do not separate their lives into professional and private spheres because the two overlap. However, only 10% said they found a hotel that could give them what they needed.

A few trailblazing businesses are creating offerings that satisfy this growing and demanding blended lifestyle market.

On March 20,

Global Hyatt Corporation

unveiled

Hyatt Place, an innovative hotel concept that specifically caters to the most classic of blenders: business travelers.

"When I'm on the road, I don't want to feel like my only purpose in life is business," says Pink, whom Hyatt consulted to create an experience of personal nurturing at its hotels. Hyatt Place "simulates the experience of being at home from a day of work," he says.

If Pink brought his family to Hyatt Place, his kids could catch the game on his room's 42-inch TV while curled up on an eight-foot cozy sofa sleeper, his wife could enjoy a pinot noir at the hotel's wine bar, and 20% more space than the average hotel room would surely keep everyone happy (and free dad up for undistracted work obligations).

"Hyatt Place is the first hotel of its kind to cater to both the functional and emotional aspects of today's business and leisure travelers," says Tom O'Toole, senior vice president of strategy and systems for Global Hyatt Corporation.

When family and friends stay behind, free Wi-Fi allows guests to stay in touch with their significant others or their bosses while sitting in ergonomic chairs at comfortably oversized desks.

"Your blend on Tuesday may be different from Wednesday," Pink notes, and Hyatt customizes each customer's blend choice with its wide range of available amenities.

Hyatt Place has hotels open in Atlanta; Chicago; Phoenix; Cincinnati; Louisville, Ky.; and Nashville, Tenn.; a total of 120 hotels will be open by December 2007.

Home at Work

Besides changing attitudes about personal calls -- which formerly were taboo while at work -- savvy businesses are blending lifestyles right in the office.

Google

(GOOG) - Get Report

, which topped the 2007 list of

Fortune's

100 Best Companies to Work For, seems to be getting the message. It offers its employees on-site doctors, laundry facilities and a dry-cleaning service, and it even welcomes dogs indoors.

Employees and students at the venerable MIT have free access to the MIT Center for Work, Family and Personal Life, which offers resources such as consultations on job sharing and telecommuting, as well as options for child care.

"People produce better when they are happier," says Pink, as a reminder for employers to always keep the blender in mind.