Wednesday, March 13, 2013

WMW: Constant Accessibility

I heard this stat the other day: that 7 in 10 working adults have a smartphone, resulting in an increase in work bleeding over into personal time. It's not just the smartphone's fault, of course. Personal computers meant you could do things at home that maybe once were reserved for the office. Laptops meant you could use the same computer at work and home and tote it with you wherever you go. The Internet and Cloud-based apps mean you can work on a project across a bunch of devices—work computer, home computer, laptop, tablet, phone, etc.

It used to be hard work to work anywhere. You'd have to think ahead to lug paperwork home at the end of the day, or at least save stuff on a flash drive to tote it home electronically. Now, it's not only easy to work 24/7, the work follows you and it becomes expected because everyone knows you could
theoretically work 24/7.

How could you not know about the client crisis that erupted at 9 am on Saturday morning? You were at your kid's soccer game? Well, you had your phone on you, didn't you?

Hey, did you get the email I sent ten minutes ago? Why haven't you responded? I thought maybe your firewall blocked it, so I sent it to your other address too.

Perhaps worse than the external expectation of constant accessibility is the pressure and temptation you put yourself through. Say you do look at your phone during that soccer game and become aware of the brand new work-related crisis. Then you're tempted to fire back emails to address the issue when you should be connecting with your family and supporting your child.

When I was first able to check my work email from my home computer, it was mainly for extenuating circumstances (business trips, sick days, etc.) I remember when cell phones were just for emergencies too! When I first got my work email on my phone a couple years ago, I thought it was pretty cool. I could check on things before getting to work, or before going to bed. I could respond to an email at 9 p.m. and impress whoever sent it with my industriousness.

Now that I work on a contract basis, paid by hour or by project, I don't feel the same pressure to be constantly available. I took that email account off my phone, and I rarely go into my home office when Matt and the kids are home, and I don't use the kitchen computer for work. I expected it to be harder to segment my life, working from home, but in a way it is easier to draw those lines.

What about you? Are you accessible 24/7? Do you expect others to be?


Lisa H said...

I definitely don't like being available 24/7, working or otherwise. Although I do have a Smartphone (Jim still have a flip phone that people always comment about when they see it!), it's to submit myself immediately for hosting and commercial jobs since time is of the essence. When I was working, though, I never gave out my personal contact information and even with the Smartphone I DO detach. If I'm going to be away (like our Bahamas cruise at the end of December), I don't stress that I'm missing something. I try to leave my phone home and not get addicted (it IS an addiction) to checking it constantly when I hear an e-mail ping. Of course, sometimes I leave it home and then we regret it because we want to look up a restaurant location or check something else on the internet that we otherwise can't do with Jim's relic. At any rate, I think it's important to detach and not be available 24/7 or else you'll NEVER get to have a life. In my old job, I returned a phone call only to discover the woman had CALLED ME FROM HER HOSPITAL BED HOURS AFTER GIVING BIRTH. I kid you not. Can you believe it?! Take some time for your family, Woman!! (As a WMW you think that detaching from work is more difficult for fathers or mothers or does it depend on the job? Or the person?)

Sonya said...

I've learned to separate. In my current job I have an iPad & laptop that can keep me connected even outside of my buildings. I will check email once on the weekend but I usually don't have much if anything. I did refuse to put it on my personal phone. I didn't want to see emails when I was away and I didn't want to link my personal stuff to my school stuff. I have been very good at keeping my time my time when I'm not at school. I won't even work at home on it because I want them separate.

Rachel Moss said...

Oh, this is the very reason I have chosen not to link my work email to my phone. I know I would be tempted to send and respond to emails from parents and coteachers all the time!
My district is in the process of integrating an edu-social networking site (similar to FB)into our "roles and responsibilities". I am really excited about the idea of quickly getting information out to the parents of my students...but I am not thrilled about the idea of being more accessible to them on the weekends and evenings. I willingly give parents my cell phone number in case they need to get ahold of me, but I really don't want to offer up another way to keep me "on call".
That being said, my team and administrators are all really great at encouraging others to maintain a healthy work-life balance.


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