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In the modern, interconnected world, keeping your professional and private life separate is no longer as easy as it used to be. Although some people with more old-fashioned views tend to focus on the negative, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can have all kinds of positive effects on your career. What really matters is being aware of the pros and cons so you can strike the balance that’s right for you.

Networking

The biggest business advantage enjoyed by people with busy social lives comes from networking. Often the old adage is true: it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. But while we tend to focus on the usefulness of all those contacts when finding new jobs or sealing deals, they also come in handy in other ways. They can provide convenient shortcuts when you’re doing research, get you inside information on important developments and help you access high value events.

Improving your health

Having an active social life is good for your health, especially if you’re engaging in physical activities like hiking, skiing or dancing. It’s also good for your mental health, reducing stress and anxiety. People who make room in their lives for social activity tend to work more efficiently than people who spend every waking hour working, so are often more productive overall. Being fitter and happier also makes it easier to make a good impression on people.

Broadening your horizons

A busy social life means you’re always meeting new people. What’s important is to meet different kinds of people from different backgrounds – people who have different kinds of experiences, face different challenges in life and can share different perspectives. This will enrich your understanding of the world, increase your general knowledge base and give you fresh insights into the way you approach your work.

Time pressures

Of course, there are downsides to a busy social life, the most obvious of which is pressure on your time. Even if you’re managing to squeeze in both work and play, regular late nights may lead to lateness in the mornings, and tiredness can affect the quality of the work you do. It’s better to keep your social engagements to more suitable times of day. One way to do this is to spend your lunch breaks with friends or go out for dinner after work.

Reputation

When you’re socializing – including spending time on social media – it’s important to remember that this could affect your professional reputation. Employers increasingly search on employees’ and job applicants’ names to see what they’ve been up to. Even if you’re careful with your own posts, they could see pictures that other people have tagged you in. Be careful with privacy settings and don’t bitch about work but if you’re not doing anything too shocking, don’t worry too much – few modern employers expect you not to have a social life at all.

Drink and drugs

Drink and drug use can easily lead to problems that spill over from your social life into the workplace, making you unproductive, anti-social or even dangerous to your colleagues and the public. Your employer may choose to use an oral fluid lab test to identify any substances you’ve been taking and try to nip these problems in the bud. If you feel that you have a habit that’s hard to control and you’re not sure how to stop, talk to your employer – they may be more sympathetic than you think.

Social barriers

For some people, the increasing overlap of the professional and the social creates difficulties because they find it hard to get out and about outside work. This may be because they are caring for children or other relatives, because they have disabilities or because they have limited access to transport. For this reason, it’s important for employers not to assume that people who don’t go out much are anti-social. They can do their bit by making sure work-related social events are as accessible as possible. If you’re limited in this way, remember that online socializing can also be a good way to expand your networks and boost your career.

Although there’s still a need for focus in the workplace and there are times when traditional, impersonal professionalism is very important, the line between our work and social lives is becoming fuzzier. Smart employers recognize this and welcome the benefits it brings. Smart employees understand that they don’t have to sacrifice social activities to achieve success, but that they can use those activities to help them on their way.