Isn’t technology wonderful? Here I sit on my patio at 11:30 at night, typing this post on my phone. That’s really incredible, especially if you’ve walked this planet for more than a couple of decades and can remember a time before phones were even able to be untethered from the wall let alone be considered ‘smart’.
Here it is, 11:30 on a clear night and I’m tethered to my phone, working on my blog. Isn’t technology awful? That really is the irony isn’t it. On the one hand, technology makes us free to be productive from anywhere. On the other hand, technology further shackles us and prevents us from going ‘off the grid’. Now, I’m not complaining about writing this post. Blogging isn’t something I have to do, it’s something I get to do. Writing is therapeutic for me and I live in a country where I am free to express myself. But, for many, gone are the days of taking the family on vacation and being unreachable for a week or two. How many of you are guilty of at the very least, checking your work email while on vacation? I know that I am. As portability increases, expectations about your availability increase as well. As companies continue to get leaner, everyone is forced to do more and handle an increasingly large piece of the pie. This means, when you are gone, often there is nobody that can fill in or has the needed answer. Far to often, the expectation is that you will be available as needed.
Technology really is incredible. Now, it’s more than just phone calls and email. Now, I can establish a connection and manage my servers from my phone, while sitting on a beach somewhere far away. The ugly side to that is that I might be required to manage my servers while sitting on a beach somewhere instead of enjoying the beach.
We really need to draw the line somewhere. That downtime away from the office is critical. As much as possible, we need to be completely unreachable. I’ve always told the people working for me to be on vacation when they take time off. Recharge the batteries. There have been a few emergencies where I really needed to talk to them, but I have always made sure to make that an exception. We need the time away. If your employer doesn’t respect that, it may be time for you to think about finding an employer that does. While our work and careers are important, it’s a short term deal. I once was part of a celebration for a fellow employee that had been with the company for 50 years! That is really quite remarkable. But, you know what happened? She retired, the plant forged ahead, and everyone forgot her. In most cases, your job is about right now. Business requirements change and most of the accomplishments that you are so proud of now will be nothing more than a line on your resume a decade from now. For those of us with families, that is where your impact can be felt for generations. Your next vacation could be something that your children talk about for the rest of their lives. Unplug and invest your energy into them. The seeds you plant now will bring fruit in their lives and in their children’s lives. The energy you put into them can last long after you are gone.
For those of us who manage people, if you haven’t already done so, establish clear guidelines outlining what constitutes an emergency requiring contact with an employee outside of normal work hours and what can wait. It’s easy to fall into the trap of allowing everything to become an emergency. To further eliminate that, establish a list of who is allowed to contact employees on their off time. There’s that one person at your office. You know the one I’m talking about. The one who sees a crisis in everything. That’s the vacation wrecker. You have to take the phone and email capability out of that person’s hands with a specific set of criteria that must be met prior to contacting someone who is vacationing. I have made the mistake in the past of emailing people on vacation about unimportant stuff with the intention of them reading it when they get back, and even instructions in the email itself not to read it until they return. It doesn’t work. They read it and reply anyways. I’ve learned to save the email as a draft and send it when they return. As leaders, we’ve got to discipline ourselves and hold the regular stuff until our people get back. That little bit of time away will pay larger dividends the rest of the year.
It’s time to get back to basics. It’s time to get unplugged again.
Amazingly, I’ve typed this entire eight hundredish word post from the WordPress app on my phone. Isn’t technology amazing?
(Note: I did edit it on my computer. Those tiny keyboards and screens only go so far. )