In the good old days, you put in your time at work then went home. The boss didn’t bug you after hours unless it was an emergency, and co-workers didn’t bother you at home because they didn’t want to think about work, either.
But these days, it’s not unusual to have an e-mail arrive from the boss at 2 a.m., or have co-workers call you at night, on weekends and even on vacation. You no longer sit and simply enjoy time off – you are tethered to your job through all sorts of electronic gadgets. And, even if the boss or your colleagues aren’t trying to contact you, in all honesty, you’re probably trying to contact them.
Is it that our work has become so critical that we can’t take even one night off? That our vacations are nothing but telecommuting in disguise? That we’re so critical to the success of our employer that we must stay connected 24/7?
For as long as there has been work, there have been workaholics. So, working a lot is nothing new. What has changed is that just as technology has helped us do our jobs better, it has also helped us do our jobs worse. So, if we're awake at 3 a.m. and can't sleep, instead of getting a glass of warm milk and watching the clouds drift over the moon from our kitchen window -- we'll get on the computer and work.
Instead of giving ourselves down time, we work. While studies have shown multitasking to not only impact our creativity and make us less productive -- now we're determined to make others just as miserable. So we bombard others with e-mails and texts that demand a reaction.
Maybe it's time to take a deep breath and think before reaching for that computer key or text button.
- Be stingy with the attachments. Is firing off a quick e-mail with an attachment that will take three hours for the other person to read really fair? What does that say about how you respect the other person's time if you inundate them with material just to avoid a face-to-face interaction that might solve the problem more quickly and efficiently?
- Set guidelines. Get together with colleagues and agree that you're going to be more cognizant of when to use technology – and when not to. Get colleagues -- and bosses -- to decide no more Blackberries, pagers or cell phones will be allowed in meetings. Mass e-mails will only be sent in dire circumstances. Anyone who violates the policy more than once has to buy everyone coffee the next morning.
- Be sender sensitive. Before sending an electronic or voice message, consider where, when and how the person will be receiving it. Do you really need to send a message on the weekend? Is it really fair to send urgent work to someone coming off a week-long business trip? Can your message wait until the person finishes up a big project? Be aware of the stresses everyone faces on the job, and how your actions contribute to that.
What are some other ways we can use -- or not use -- technology better?