Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for technology. I love all kinds of gadgets and I always strive to have the latest and greatest. I’m not sure that I could function without my iPad. Google, email, Twitter etc, where would I be without it.
I am just coming to the end of one week vacation and yet again, I’ll not be returning to work as revitalised and de-stressed as I would like to be. Fact is, the technology that is helping us to stay contactable, connected, up-to-date, is the very technology that is stopping me (and I expect many others) from getting the maximum benefits from taking time off. In fact, I often think that I would be less stressed if I didn’t take any vacation at all.
As a senior manager I’m paid enough to be contactable during my vacation you might argue. Well yes I would tend to agree with that. If my input were required on something that would impact the future of our company should it not be resolved immediately. Yes, I agree, and I am, contactable.
My point is more at the way we use email and our new found technology and the needless stress that this causes. I can remember the good old days of fax and internal memos. With just a few workstations in the office with which to write and print a fax, sometimes we had to wait a few days before we would be able to reply to a fax we had received earlier that week. Because time to prepare such communications was precious and shared, we all had to think about what and who we needed to write to. Memos had to be distributed by internal post, they had to be copied and then put into correctly addressed internal mail envelopes. It was a real effort to send either a fax or a memo. Due to that what we received was actually relevant and important. If something was really urgent, then god forbid, we would actually use the phone.
Looking over the long list of unread email messages on my BB today (from today) it struck me that about 95% of what I had received were items where I had been copied. Then look at the email subject field. Many emails with the same subject. Group all of these duplicate subjects together and you have an entire conversation between a group of people, all of them copying everybody else, and some of the contributors are even sat in the same office. These conversations can run for days, sometimes longer. And yes, I’m also a culprit of what can only be described as Spam. In fact their should be a special word made especially for pointless email conversations.
We get pulled in. “uhmm, that looks interesting… not really but I wonder how she responded… really… I don’t think so…” and before you know it, you’re in. You’ve made the fatal error of showing that your reading emails and responding. More important is that you’ve crossed the line from keeping up with what’s happening to actually working. The downward spiral begins. Just one example that contributes to a disturbed resting time and sending our work-life balance into turmoil.
Work is leaking out of the workplace into a place once held sacred. We’ve lost respect towards our colleagues who have taken some well earned vacation and we’ve lost respect towards our families who have to tolerate the endless smartphone watching that you see so often at today’s holiday destinations.
Am I guilty of this? . . . Absolutely! Does it bother me? . . . Definitely!
I’m sure, I hope, that I’m not alone with this viewpoint. All I know is that for me, something needs to change.