Dual Personas?

by Brian Katz on May 23, 2014 · 1 comment

No matter where you turn these days, everyone is talking about dual personas. Everyone is said to have these 2 personas, one for home and one for work. They are vastly different and don’t overlap. You think differently, do things differently and may even look different, almost straight out of an old apple commercial. It quickly becomes a conversation about separating your home life from your work life. The only problem with this way of thinking, it’s not really how things work these days. Yes, there are cultures and a subset of people in this country where a person really has two separate identities but in the real world, we have evolved from having a separate personal vs work life to integrating our home and work lives into one persona.

dual-personaThis doesn’t mean that you necessarily behave identically for both, what it means is that there really isn’t as much separation. You may dress differently for work and use slightly different language etc but your personal life intrudes upon your day. The same thing happens when you are home. The phone rings and you answer it, it could be a friend or work. Work is no longer a place that you go but rather it is something you do that isn’t confined to an office anymore. It also isn’t confined to the work hours of 9 to 5. It may be anytime that work actually needs to get done.

The younger generations have been dealing with this for far longer than most. They have had devices in their hands since they were in elementary school that they use wherever they are. They have a single identity that spans what they do. They are the ones that get upset when technology at a company no longer meets their needs as they have already immersed it in their lives. Their Facebook/Twitter identities have advanced to Skype and Lync and they flow information through their workflows using the right tool for the right job. They don’t understand limits because they’ve never had to.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t times/places/jobs that do require separate personas. A lot of work for the government does require completely separate identity but that is accepted as part of the work. Those jobs bring those requirements and have to work that way. You don’t expect to work for the defense department and be talking about troop movements through your Twitter account. These types of jobs that require these separate personas are few and becoming farther in-between. These personas will still slowly become integrated, just the communication methods will change a little. It will still require some thought to figure out the right channel, but more and more of it won’t require you to stop and make sure you are using proper channels.

You see, people have been integrating their personal and work life for years. Businesses have been slow to come on board but now understand the productivity gains that they see when they lessen the rigidity of the office. The sad part of this, is people tend to work more than 40 hours a week, which business’ loves, but impinges on their personal lives. Businesses also see more efficiency gains as people can get their stuff done when and where they need to. It’s no longer a matter of getting inundated when you walk into the office each morning. Chances are you looked at your email when you woke up and probably before you went to bed. Even better, that note you were waiting for doesn’t require that you be chained to your desk anymore. You may not get it until you’re at Sally’s soccer game or Johnny’s baseball game, but you can receive it and process it while watching both of them kick ass on the field.

This doesn’t mean that an integrated persona is the best thing. You still need to know when to disconnect yourself and that gets harder and harder as we have more ways to be reached and more devices to be reached on. There’s a reason people play the first device that gets picked up pays the check game when out to dinner. As we evolve to a single persona, it becomes harder to live in the moment and fully connect in real life. Businesses need to be aware of this as well since they will eventually see people burn out if they don’t disconnect. Some companies are even offering to pay part of your vacation if you leave your phone/device at home.

What this all leads to is the fact that people don’t want to think in dual modes. They work on a device and don’t want to have two different Microsoft Word apps, one for work and one for home. They don’t want to worry which Box app they open up or what is personal vs corporate Evernote. They aren’t wired to work that way except in some extreme situations.

Some enterprise software companies have already come to grips with this issue and are building their apps to take this into account. Box, for example, allows you to have a personal and a corporate account but only one app. You switch views in the app but it is very clear. The same thing can be done with Evernote. As companies begin to realize the importance of this, they will start demanding solutions from commercial app developers that secure their corporate data while allowing an individual to still use an app for their own devices.

Enterprises have to move away from the multiple personalities of Sybil and work on understanding and integrating their employees work habits into a coherent vision that they share with the employees themselves. They need to adhere to the FUN principle of Focusing on the User Needs which means understanding that employees are integrating their work and personal life into a single experience that spans their days.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Dasher May 23, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Good summary, Brian. I’d argue that “people don’t want to think in dual modes” is more accurately, “human beings are incapable of thinking is dual modes”. It’s just not how we’re built. The technology industry needs to understand this better than they do, as clearly some solutions out there ignore this fact.


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