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Does your work expect you to be ‘always-on’?

Does your work expect you to be ‘always-on’?

October 18, 2012

By Ross Coverdale

In today’s technology-filled world, we’re only a click or a push of a button away from our network. Whether it’s an email, SMS, tweet, LinkedIn or Facebook post, modern gadgetry keeps us connected with people around the world on a daily basis. And for the most part, that’s a good thing!

Since the advent of mobile email, people have been able to take advantage of new mobile working practices, meaning that we no longer have to be in the office at all times to be in contact with our customers and colleagues, and as devices become more useful through the adoption of new features, fixed computers become even less essential for us to get our work done. And again, this is a good thing.

So, I hear you asking, what is so bad about all this connectivity? The answer is when it interferes with your personal life to the point where you might as well be in the office 24-7 – this is not a good thing.

When urgent matters require attention, mobile email is a godsend, and I’m confident that many disasters have been averted because people have been able to jump on problems before things get out of hand. The issue becomes a problem when this always-on mentality reduces your quality of life or brings you the risk of getting in trouble with family or friends, as well as pushing yourself too much to the point of ‘burning out’.

A lot of employers expect employees to be available to a reasonable extent outside of office hours, though some companies are taking measures to help ensure that their staff switch off at the end of the day. The New York Times reported that ‘at the beginning of 2012, Volkswagen reached an agreement with a small portion of its work force to stop the e-mail server for employees who used BlackBerrys 30 minutes after their shift ended and restore it half an hour before work began the next day.’

That being said, some people embrace constant connectivity without really being pushed to, and I suppose that’s okay so long as things don’t get out of hand. There is a reason that BlackBerry smartphones have the ‘CrackBerry’ nickname! Personally, I tend to pick up emails pretty much as they come in when I’m out of the office, but I’ll only respond to things that can’t really wait until the following day. If I’m on holiday, then I’ll perhaps check in every few days if I can get connected.

It’s not just emails. With news and social networking platforms becoming more and more mobile, we now have a constant stream of instantly-updated information that is not only easily accessible, but beamed directly into our pockets (and our eyes!). It’s not really as scary as it might sound though – you just have to learn when to put the phone down.

Are you ‘always-on’ (and if so, what is the main driving force?) or do you draw the line when you leave the office?

Take me back.

, ,


Does your work expect you to be ‘always-on’?

Latest Comments

Ross says:

2012-10-19 10:11:49

That\'s a scary thought Willie!

Willie Fairhurst says:

2012-10-18 20:58:18


Thank you for a excellent blog post. I think as an IT professional I am somehow responsible for the \'always on\' culture. I am a great believer that a whole generation born in the 70\'s and 80\'s will be plagued by stress related diseases caused by the culture of being always available.

I think knowing how to turn off is the hardest thing and maybe in the future people will be admitted to specialist clinics with email, computer and mobile addiction.

Ross says:

2012-10-18 11:44:19

Some good tips there Stuart – thanks for chipping in!

You\'re absolutely right that it\'s a combination of expectations and considerations from others and, ultimately, yourself.

Stuart says:

2012-10-18 11:36:45

I agree that this can be a real problem if either an employer encourages or even request, that staff be \'always on\' ... or if an employee feels they need to be constantly connected.

However, one of the great things about constant \'availability\' of communications is the ability to have choice.

If you want to work from home for a day, if you want to shift your hours a bit to work your time from say 12-8pm, while the office is closed, if you want to leave early to pic up your kids from school... you have the \'choice\' to stay connected and be \'available\' if you want/need to be. This, I find, can be very stress relieving.

The culture needs to be a healthy one and people need to know when they don\'t \'have\' to be available... and they need to manage expectations of those trying to contact them. If you\'re not available, then put your Out Of Office on, so people get a response saying when you will be back... and give them an alternative contact for someone else in the company that can help. If you know that no-one will be upset by not being able to get you to get what they need, then you can turn your device to \'do not disturb\' and relax.

It\'s all about choice and flexibility. Just because you \'can\' be always on, doesn\'t mean you \'have\' to be... you choose when you are.

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