The cover of a Harvard Business Review edition recently grabbed my attention — “Managing the 24/7 Workplace … ‘Always available’ cultures breed problems.”
Facing the “Always Available” Workplace
I’m not sure what your work environment looks like, but the reality of the 24/7 workplace is impacting an increasing number of sectors and an increasing number of employees. Reid and Ramarajan put it this way:
“To satisfy those demands [of the high-intensity workplace], employees arrive early, stay late, pull all-nighters, work weekends, and remain tied to their electronic devices 24/7.”
For a few, this is not necessarily problematic, even though it may not be healthy. These individuals may enjoy the fast-paced work environment that goes along with such a 24/7-type work culture. For others, the “always available” mode of work life grinds against the core of the work-life balance they desire.
While such work environments may be most closely associated with the always-on contexts of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, the nature of contemporary work tools expands this reality to most organizations. Regardless of the field within which you work, paying attention to how you manage always-available communication like email and smartphones is an issue that nearly every adult must manage in our age.
3 Hours of Your Day
One source indicates that in 2015 the average person in the US spent around 174 minutes on their mobile device per day. This is up from around 22 minutes in 2009.
While some of this dramatic increase is due to browsing social media outlets and watching great things like the latest #chewbaccamom video (time well-spent of course!), much of this usage is also symptomatic of our “always-available” work expectations.
While I’m definitely on the end of frequently checking email and working to respond to work needs in a timely manner, I’m seeking to be more intentional these days about being intentional with times to step away from work and always-available communication in a balanced manner.
Here are a two targeted scheduling practices I aspire to increasingly move toward in managing a productive and balanced work life:
- Schedule 2-3 times a day for engaging and responding to email:
Rather than approaching email in an “always-available” manner, I want to focus on meaningful and timely communication 2 or 3 times a day. For me, this will take effort. I have a pattern of almost habitual email checking throughout the day on my smartphone. While there are some up sides to this (timely responses being one), this pattern takes away from other important and focused work that needs to be accomplished.
- Schedule regular time for focused work:
While administrative tasks such as meetings and email communication are regular and important parts of most organizational settings, typically these administrative tasks don’t move the most important work projects forward. Finding blocks of time to meaningfully engage these items helps to insure that the most important work does not just get discussed, but also accomplished. This relates to a previous discussion I shared about prioritizing the “Big Rocks” in our lives. See this post on priorities here.
So how are you managing your work life in light of these 24/7 workplace tendencies? What are your strategies to both remain relevant for your organization and focused on reclaiming work-life balance?