Let’s face it, the work culture has evolved and technology is the responsible party. Older generations could have never imagined we would be so accessible to so many people after the work day is through. Even if you were “on-call” it was still only one person who could get in touch with you. So, what makes us compelled to respond to calls or emails during our personal time. Is it pressure? Or is it a great benefit?
I started my career at a telecommunications company. It was before smartphones, but not before laptops and cell phones. Suffice to say, I was in an environment that was conducive to bringing work home with you. I saw this as a benefit. It provided some flexibility to my work/life balance. But there is another side to always being connected.
- Decrease in face-to-face interactions – Employees may be communicating more efficiently through email, but what happens when you only talk through an electronic device. Mina Chang, CEO and President of Linking the World International says, “a lack of in-person communication means constituents miss out on the reasoning behind decisions making, them less likely to engage.”
- Intrusion on family/personal time – The time we spend away from work allows us to decompress and spend quality time with our friends and family. Are we still accomplishing this when we choose to peek at emails or even engage in conversation at night or on weekends? One company has an answer for employees who really want to take uninterrupted vacation time. Daimler’s German-based employees are encouraged to enjoy their vacation time by taking advantage of the company’s auto-delete email policy.
- Contribution to employee burnout – While technology is certainly not the sole reason a person gets burned out from their job, it’s not far fetching to say it’s a contributing factor. According to a study done by the Academy of Management, “participants spent an average of about 8 hours a week reading and responding to company-related emails after hours“.
Employers are beginning to look at the effects of after hour work. Flexibility is a benefit, but to what extent. Balance will play a crucial role in how we look at this in the future. France has gone as far as implementing a “right to disconnect” law all in an effort to reduce stress caused by staying connected. There may not be one right (or wrong) solution to this problem.