Should You Separate Your Personal Life from Your Work?

More than 300,000 companies, including 85% of the Fortune 500,  have implemented enterprise social networks to connect the right people to share information and drive communications, innovation and engagement. Social networks such as IBM Connections, Yammer, Jive, Chatter, MoxieSpaces, NewsGator, tibbr, SocialCast, etc. are facilitating two-way dialog and cross-functional chatter building new value across traditional hierarchies and silos.

The Value of a “Best Friend at Work”

Enterprise social networks have also transformed the way we communicate our personal lives in the workplace. Most social networks have a section to list your hobbies- and encourage like-interest clubs to promote engagement across business lines. Long-term relationships are often formed at work and intrinsically tie employees tighter to your company.  Quality relationships are the cornerstone of a healthy workplace, reducing stress and making work more enjoyable. The employee survey question, “I have a best friend at work,” is a key indicator of an employee’s engagement, commitment to quality and loyalty.  Forward thinking companies recognize that the depth and quality of employee relationships is a critical component of employee allegiance and a deciding factor when employees have “leaving moments.”

Recently, I’ve seen a new brand of private, online communities that focus on fostering personal and social connections in the workplace but are completely separate from the business environment.  Employees are asked to develop a profile, expand their personal network and join or start groups based on like interests or volunteer opportunities. These networks keep org charts, titles and business chatter separate.

Aligning the people strategy to the business strategy

Aligning the people strategy to the business strategy is complex and I’ve thought long and hard about the merits of keeping the “personal side” out of workplace.  I support and respect employees’ right to privacy, BUT believe it’s important to find ways to integrate work-life and encourage employees to bring their full selves to work- which includes both professional expertise and personal interests. Earlier in my career, I tended not to talk about my twin boys or my love of cooking, for fear of impacting my leadership persona.  I’ve learned that your life close does not stop when you go to work and its important to encourage workplace authenticity.

I believe that a enterprise social network should promote professional and social connection. The site should be where employees login every day, with integrated communications, not a separate web site that they have to go to.  Having access to org charts and personal interests on your enterprise network can give you a starting point for a conversation and helps you forge relationships with new team members.  In addition, it is important to link metrics on innovation, engagement and business performance to the enterprise network and it may be difficult to tie activity on a social connection site to business results.

Some of the best workplaces recognize that people want to forge quality relationships with their coworkers, and company loyalty benefits from these relationships. Many organizations have enterprise social networks to equip their employees with the power to find and combine information, and get work done across all lines of business.

How do you integrate professional and personal information on your collaboration network? How do you promote workplace authenticity? Do you believe that you should keep your personal life separate on your social network?  I look forward to your comments.

Lisa Bonner

Lisa Bonner is an experienced change agent and Senior Vice President with Roberts Golden Consulting. She helps global Fortune 500 companies solve organizational issues and manage major changes to drive achievement of bold business objectives. Lisa is passionate about football, fitness, decorating and raising twin boys. Connect with Lisa.

Reader Interactions


  1. jill beckett says

    Excellent article. I share your views as wofklife balance fosters employee engagement and increases employee satisfaction. Employers need to get onboard


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