Dis-Connected: Is being constantly connected to technology destroying your work-life balance?

Is technology really making our lives better? The expectation to be constantly connected is disconnecting employees from their workplaces in more ways than we realise.

The Lost Manager.

It’s 9AM and you walk into the office. Your boss rushes up and frantically asks you, “Haven’t you seen my email?!”
I haven’t even walked in the door yet, put my bag down and opened up my laptop but I know I’m already behind.

Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

My alarm clock rings. It’s 4:00AM in Sydney. I roll over and pick up my mobile and scroll through my emails to check if anything urgent has hit our production, development or QA teams overnight. See, our customers and sister offices are all based in Europe and if there are problems we are asleep whilst they get filtered through. No urgent calls have woken me up which is always a good sign.

I’m actually waking up to get myself ready for a 4:30AM summit. We are what our company calls a “Global Operation”! We have offices on the west coast of the US, east coast of Canada, Stockholm & London in Europe to name a few.

Our new COO is a big fan of global strategic initiatives which, in principle, is a great ideal. But no crossover time works for everyone. Despite Sydney being a founding office, times have changed and people in London, but more so in Stockholm, couldn’t possibly take a call later in the night so we sacrifice ourselves to attend and listen to 1 hour and 20 minutes of irrelevant discussion so we can have 10 minutes to make some key decisions about how we sort out some global disagreements. Luckily our company supports us working from home, so thankfully we don’t need to come into the office for these type of meetings. Boy, am I grateful!

I wake up, boil some water, make some lousy instant coffee and wash my face and straighten my bedraggled hair before sitting down and in the cold of Sydney’s winter morning with the soft glow of my cheap Dell laptop reflecting off my tired face. My headset warms my ears and my mobile with emails open at the ready amplifying the electronic glow in the room.

That day I’ll sit through the meeting, then get ready for the day, prepare breakfast for my pregnant wife so it’ll be there after I leave for the office. I sneak a quick goodbye hug and kiss as she wakes up and I hop onto the train. My commute is short by Sydney standards these days reduced from when it was a standard 1.5 hours door to door to 0.5 hours. I get to the office at 8AM and jam a few emails in. Take a breath and order a coffee before managing the troops from 9:00AM to 5:00PM. I head home… but the day isn’t over.

I get ready for my plethora of nightly calls as my wife prepares our dinner. I tell her to leave it in the microwave and she eats alone. At 7:00PM I emerge, I have a wonderous half an hour to devour my dinner before a quick 7:30PM to 8:00PM call.

I’m doing this for my family… right?
I mean I get paid a decent amount. Not as much as other’s but you know I got here by putting in the hard yards.
I got here because I was always the guy that went above and beyond. I answered those calls and emailed to get things moving so nothing would slow down… And now I realise they really won’t slow down and they can’t.

The company I worked for was sold by the owners because we were part of a big value proposition and in the end, I left disillusioned at the direction they were headed. I left with only my last paycheck and owed annual leave. Others were made redundant but they wouldn’t have let me go. How could they? So I really left with no great reward for my hard work other than the experience I gained along the way, which don’t get me wrong has served me well.

There is a belief at the moment that being connected makes us more efficient.
But are we more effective is the better question?
We can answer anything instantly.
But isn’t being more effective and efficient mean reducing the need to work so hard?

Ironically, we talk so much about work-life balance.
“We will give you the ability to work from home”… I mean that means you can work whilst addressing your life right? You can take the meeting on your mobile in your car on your drive home? You can check on that email whilst you’re on holiday and defy the out of office notification. It shows how diligent you are!

When do we stop?
When are we going to realise that disconnecting is actually a better result sometimes? Over time it can’t and won’t be sustainable for people to be so engaged. Even the best of the best need to take a minute.

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