We are a hyper-connected society.
It’s a wonderful time to be alive, knowing with the push of a button, we can ‘chat’ with someone on the other side of the world at minimal cost.
All it takes is the right piece of equipment and an Internet connection.
But it means we’re all working at different times. We’re located in different time zones or our ability to telecommute and work from anywhere means we sometimes have to connect whenever someone else bloody well feels like it.
And it means we can be out for dinner with our friends and loved ones and — BING! — our smartphones ring out with a notification, letting us know someone somewhere needs us for something.
It can be maddening for the people around us.
We look at it, though, as our careers — and lives — depend upon answering that text, email or Tweet.
Some companies are starting to buck that trend. They’re recognizing that we need our time to relax, refresh and recharge.
Daimler, the German automaker, doesn’t want its employees on call, 24-7. In a New York Times story on disconnecting, a Daimler rep reveals the company will have all incoming email automatically deleted during its employees’ vacations.
The sender gets an Out of Office email directing him to a temporary contact.
“Switching off” after work is important, “even if you are on a business trip,” said Sabrina Schrimpf, a Daimler spokeswoman.
Tuning out is important, and it becomes more so for telecommuters, flex workers and remote workers. We are always ‘on’ and studies show our ability to be connected is making us work more.
In the NY Times story, Leslie A. Perlow, a professor of leadership at Harvard Business School and author of Sleeping With Your Smartphone, says companies can improve their bottom line by encouraging employees to disconnect at times.
“Being constantly on actually undermines productivity,” she said.
But let’s face it. Companies like Daimler are rarer than we want them to be. Most companies, fueled by our always-hovering fears of job security in an economically challenged world, place 24-7 demands on employees to produce.
Thus, we can become slaves to our technology.
And it becomes incumbent upon the workers and the telecommuters to turn ourselves off, to ignore that BING on our smartphones and to reconnect not just with our friends and family, but also with ourselves.
But we also require an understanding from senior management that it isn’t about getting more from us.
It’s about getting the best of us.