Technology has changed our working practices and now allows us to be connected 24/7. We have the power to Skype clients around the world and email or Tweet work colleagues at weekends, but is there a danger that having connectivity so readily available hinders our efforts to gain a better work/life balance?
We often read articles about the correct way to manage technology and how to achieve a happy balance of relaxing away from work and being 'Always On' and 'Always available'. For instance, many people choose a job that allows them to detach from the workplace on evenings and weekends, yet technology makes it difficult for others to switch off. Now, we are huge believers in the ability to use the internet, email, Facebook, Twitter, texting and to pick up the phone and talk to people, but because of technology more people are becoming distracted and losing focus. They can't escape from the workplace and feel that the office follows them around via their smartphones which demand attention 24/7.
It wasn't so long ago that when we took a holiday, we would plan ahead, make sure everything was order, inform clients of our absence and brief our teams so we could disappear off to distant shores and happily sit in the sun for a relaxing fortnight, avoiding drinking the local water, eating strange local delicacies and fending of mosquitoes.
But I digress ... Having technology at hand means that we still have an element of control at our workplace and the ability to deal with issues if they occur whilst we apply more suncream on the beach. The downside to this is managing that work/life balance again. On one hand the internet is a lifeline, but it can also become a ball and chain if we don't take the time to unplug from it.
*Personal note - Just recently, I took a holiday and had no access to the internet, wi-fi and a sporadic phone signal. This left me at times, wondering that everything was under control back at work, and a slight anxiety that should a crisis happen, I wouldn't be there to rectify it. Of course, when I returned, everything was fine, but I'm sure that I'm not the only person that has felt like this when away from work & technology.
Not a chance of a mobile phone signal here
Technology (generally) allows us to be in two places at once, but when employees struggle to find the right balance between their work and personal lives there is a chance that stress levels can increase leading to a potential loss of productivity and happiness in general. In a recent survey 70% of workers said that technology brings the stress of work into their personal lives.
It's important to manage our use of technology effectively to ensure that the benefits of being 'always on' aren't negated by increased stress levels. There should be an element of responsibility by employers (and the employee) to develop a culture of making time to relax and recharge your batteries now and then to prevent burnout and stress. I'm sure there are other staff and colleagues that can keep work ticking along whilst you are away from the office. Delegating responsibility is essential, and we all need to accept that we are not indispensable and that someone can cover our work whilst we are away.
A quick word about stress - Competition within the workplace is increasing and many workers are looking to advance their career. Many are showing that they are dedicated to their work by being available outside working hours through email or social media, but not only does this create stress, it prevents you from relaxing fully and preparing for the next time you are in work.
Researchers have recommended drawing a line between work communications and home. This not only benefits your well being, but benefits your employer too, as you will be coming back to work refreshed and recharged.
Multitasking isn't the answer - Of course, trying to cook dinner, entertain the kids, answer work emails, and chat to your sister on the phone isn't the best way to do things. Take a break when you are at home and focus one thing at a time. It's a good idea to put technology aside until the next working day because at least you will have had time to enjoy some peace and quiet. *If you are a huge mobile phone user you may be interested to note that a study suggested that mobile phones fill our need to be connected to people, but ironically the effect is that we are less likely to connect to people personally and sincerely.
Time for a rest
If technology is managed carefully, there are many benefits in which it can help our working lives, but we need to set boundaries. We would do well to give it a rest whenever possible, especially on holiday so we can spend quality time with friends and family without being distracted by our mobile phone. We should set aside time after work to 'turn off' our devices and this would probably help our overall stress and happiness levels. If companies are willing to provide a culture of acceptance that employees will be 'turned off' out of working hours they could attract and retain the best people that are stress free and happy with the perfect work/life balance.
Do you feel ready to unplug from work and turn off your technology - or have you already?