How many of us are obsessed with our phones and email? Checking it constantly on weekends or at night — or both! My "Crackberry' was once described as the'best contraceptive known to man' during the ensuing argument that followed it being launched off the balcony of our hotel room into the pool on day 2 of a family holiday! It was many years ago, but I do remember having the first relaxing holiday for a very long time that is after a period of cold turkey and cold shoulder! Surprisingly, the business not fail in my absence and the team did not play whilst the cat was away. In fact without my interference, I mean, brilliant input they actually stepped up to fill the gap and came into their own. Delivering different and dare I say it, even better results! A valuable learning experience and one I share with customers, as I would like them to have a better balance and not suffer the consequences of this modern addiction.
According to Maura Thomas in “Fixing Our Unhealthy Obsession with Work Email,” we aren’t giving our brains the vital downtime they need to relax and recharge. She suggests “telepressure,” the urge to respond to emails and phone calls even when we aren’t at work, sabotages our productivity and creativity.
Dr Dan Siegel would agree with this and from his research suggests that in the same way as we must balance what we eat, we also need to balance what we do for a healthy mind. He argues we need to feed our brain a balance of 7 different activities to ensure health and happiness.
Working with a FMCG brand over recent years delivering a global leadership programme to VP's in all regions, My colleagues and I have noticed that the effects of being constantly 'on' are far more apparent in the Asia Pacific region than in other geographies. Whether that is the nature of timezones and where your boss is located, or whether it has more to do with cultural aspects I cannot comment, but amongst 25-35 female executives I and my colleagues have noticed a significant issue of 'burnout'. Certainly there appears to be evidence out of Japan and other Asian Tiger economies that our observations are not unique.
The best way to address this problem is to take action. We recommend to those we work with a number of things to do to create a more mindful climate that is focused on your peoples wellbeing. Our top five are:
If you’re a leader, set a good example by resisting the urge to send late-night emails. If you wish, draft them but, wait until the morning to send them.
Set some ground rules as a team - Talk to your team about when they should — and shouldn’t — be available.
If you aren’t a leader, think honestly about when you actually need to be on call outside of work.
Establish your own personal rules. - For example: My phone is switched off at 9pm and on in the morning once I am up and ready for work. - Other people I know switch the phone to silent - I am not tech savvy enough to work out all the alarms to switch off so I am not woken by whatsapp, messaging, linked alerts etc. Just the phone lighting up with some none urgent message disturbs me. Even better leave it in another room at night! How radical is that!
Switch off email for an hour a day This is a great discipline to allow you to deal with those important tasks that need you to concentrate fully and not be constantly interrupted by random alerts on your computer.
There’s no hard evidence that people who work the longest hours are the most successful. Almost anything can wait until tomorrow. There is a great deal of hard evidence that working long hours is unproductive. Going back to WW1 and research into how productive munitions factory workers were given an ever increasing demand and longer and longer hours. If I remember correctly, those working 9 hours produced the same output as those working 14 hours without any where near the same levels of sickness /absense!
I know this is easier said than done and the pressure to conform to the 'in-group' is strong but you owe it to yourself and more importantly to your people to create a better working environment.
Put it this way: If you are more rested, you are easier to work for and if you respect their boundaries and encourage life balance they will want to work for you.