The emergence of the internet, real-time web, and social media technologies have made the "work" day longer and longer. There's no such thing as an 8-to-5 job anymore, and if you work in the web space, there's an emerging expectation that you're constantly available and immediately responsive.
But where's the line?
As a community professional, I know that my customers and the social media community at large need me sometimes. They have questions or are seeking information, and I'm helpful whenever I can be. The internet doesn't sleep, and the international clock is always ticking.
Sometimes that means I can answer a question at 10pm. But does it mean that I should be expected to?
The folks that lead the Xbox Elite Tweet Fleet have an account on Twitter at @xboxsupport. Right in the bio, they have specified the hours during which that Twitter account will be manned. I think that's a great way to leverage a corporate account and set very clear expectations for response time.
But it's a little trickier to set office hours if you're an individual, isn't it? I'm on Twitter and blogs and email off and on the entire day. Sometimes, it's for work. Sometimes, it's because I'm working on a personal or a side project and I'm not wearing my community hat. Can I draw a line between those activities (even if I'm not sure I can draw a line between those personas)? Should I? If I'm online, is there an unwritten expectation that I'll respond to emails and tweets that have to do with work?
I don't think there's a black and white answer with this as with many things. But I do think we hyper-connected folk need to be able to say yes, I'm online but I'm not available to chat, or return emails, or be on IM or enter a Wave right now, even if you can "see" me there. I need to be able to shut the computer off and spend time with my daughter, or clean my living room, or go take a walk in the woods. And that has to be okay, or eventually, I won't want to be here at all anymore.
Doesn't that also mean that the new internet consumer needs to understand that there are still humans on the other end of those emails and Twitter accounts and blog posts, with very real needs for human balance, too? Have our expectations for customer service on social media gotten out of hand, or is that the new reality forcing the hand of business to adapt?
I know that I'm always trying to strike a balance between being helpful and available and delineating some boundaries. What's your take?
image by *clairity*
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