How to disconnect from ‘always on’ work culture.
I came across this Wall Street Journal article and was immediately intrigued. The article read,
Today always-on is the default work setting for most of us. Ubiquitous smartphones, slim computers and innovative apps make every response a snap—quicker, easier, seemingly less painful. It just takes a second, right? But those rapidly accumulating seconds are just technology’s version of death by 1,000 cuts, expanding the workday’s boundaries until it seamlessly blurs with the rest of civilian life.
Having worked a salaried position in the US where I was always on the clock, I know the struggle well. After two years of 50+ hour work weeks, calls in the middle of the night about my store’s alarm systems going off, and the necessity to work weekends, I was d.o.n.e.
And I wasn’t alone.
According to a 2016 study by the Academy of Management, employees tally an average of 8 hours a week answering work-related emails after leaving the office. Echoing that, a 2015 Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association found that 30% of men and 23% of women regularly bring work home. Similar percentages admitted to working on vacation and to bringing “work materials” along on social outings (we hope they don’t mean accordion folders). All of this, many experts in psychology agree, causes stress, ruins sleep habits and cripples our ability to stay active and engaged during actual office hours.
My work-life balance was out of wack, so I quit my job, started my happiness hunt, and began this blog three years ago. Today, I live in Sweden where my coworkers, company, and country all value work-life balance as I do. And Sweden isn’t the only country to support this life harmony.
In 2017, France instituted a new labor law that supports a new frontier in human rights, the “Right to Disconnect.” Backed by unions advocating that employees disengage from electronic work communications once free of the office, the law stems from a 2004 French Supreme Court ruling affirming that an employee who is unreachable by cell outside of work can’t be dinged for misconduct.
But why aren’t we seeing more changes? Well, “many of us still are burdened by FOMO—the fear of missing out, or in this case the fear of missing opportunity, of being seen as less hardworking and less reliable than co-workers and thus expendable.”
And another great question to ask is, “Why is technology hurting us instead of helping us?”
Rather than using technology to augment our work, speeding us out the door in 6 hours instead of 10, or cutting down to an ideal four-day workweek, we’ve misused technology to bolster antiquated workaholic habits.
So, what’s the fix?
- Set Parameters: Understand what you and your life needs. Maybe working from home later at night isn’t a bad thing if it means you can pick up your kids from school at 4pm. Be realistic with yourself and communicative with your boss and coworkers.
- Use Technology to Your Advantage: Tech companies are finally ‘creating systems to help place healthy restrictions on communications.” Google Calendar’s new “Working Hours” function lets you automatically reject colleagues who send invites for meetings or calls outside set time windows, and conspires with your inbox to streamline the crafting of painless “out of office” replies. And Apple’s new iOS 12 features enhanced Do Not Disturb settings, letting you quiet notifications for a set time or set location.’
- Move to Europe: Hey, it worked for me ;P
How are you avoiding burn out? Let us know below.
2 thoughts on “Always On”
Great article. I am a teacher by trade, and the education industry too has been hit hard by the “always connected, always on” culture. I’m not sure there are any American professional or semi-professional jobs that haven’t developed in the same way with advancement in technology. I try to avoid email at home and I don’t take calls regarding work unless it is an emergency…in which case they WILL leave a message if they NEED you 🙂
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Hello! Yes, myself and most of my student peers were always on our phones, computers, email, Slack, and Facebook during the day. Reachable at every moment! It is great that you have set some healthy boundaries. Thanks for reading and commenting!
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