I had a chat to Triple J’s Hack program yesterday about a report by Reventure which indicated ‘Young people experience stress from being constantly connected’. You can listen to the episode here (start at the 22 minute mark).There are so many interesting, conversation worthy aspects to this issue for 18 – 25 year olds that I came up with some ideas on how to overcome these expectations.
Many of these issues will depend on the industry you’re in, how competitive it is and what agreements you have with employers. For many young people employed casually or on a contract basis showing that you have a strong worth ethic and high level of commitment to the role (overcoming stereotypes of Gen Y!) comes through your ‘one-click away’ availability.
This has a range of impacts on your wellbeing – from feeling like you need to be checking in and keeping on top of the workload (which says lots about the fact there is perhaps too much to keep on top of to begin with), to being in a state of hypervigilance (not feeling like you can fully relax, but have to be on the look-out and constantly attentive to responding to intermittent/unpredictable requests) and the obvious impact on sleep (which is really important for resting the brain and being able to think sharply!).
The constant connection is also a bit different to simply being chained to your work station for too many hours – youre in a state of limbo, not ‘at work’ but not ‘fully switched-off’ from it — which puts your brain into a state that might seem like a meerkat on the lookout!
Research generally shows that 55 hours a week is the sweet spot for when too much work just becomes unproductive and detrimental. Work over 55 hours regularly and expect to find decrease in not only how productive you are, but also your mental health, physical wellbeing and relationships. Think of it like cramming for an exam – its much better to go to bed and let sleep sort out the learning than keep trying to stuff information into a full or overflowing brain!
You can be an effective digital worker and maintain #techlifebalance, but you need to use the tools at hand, most importantly your mind and cognitions to make balanced decisions about when and how to clock-off and log-out.
TIPS FOR MANAGING CONSTANT CONNECTION AND EXPECTATIONS.
// Negotiate with your employer
Sounds easy, but might be tricky if its a small business or even a big one where people are vying to please (who isn’t?) their bosses and compete for contracts/positions/promotions. Start with asking polite questions about time in lieu, remuneration for use of private devices and data allowances (if you don’t get a ‘work phone’), frequency and volume of after-hours work etc.
Many industry go through work spikes; big tenders being due, project deadline or end of month/financial year – its good to be flexible but also have clear boundaries on what you need to maintain that elusive work-life balance. That might be saying that you are not available on a particular night when you go to yoga or negotiating an ‘on call’ roster between staff members to spread out the expectation (esp in customer service focused fields).
It might also be starting a conversation in the workplace about overall wellbeing of staff and initiatives to foster this across the organisation. I’d ponder what example a boss or leader is setting by sending all those emails at 11pm, and find a way to introduce a focus on productivity rather than touting working crazy long hours as some kind of badge. Read more on that here.
//Manage Digital Distractions
Multitasking is a myth. Your smartphone is designed to draw you in and get your attention. Sort your shit out with your notifications – get only the important ones. Find yourself regularly checking personal stuff during professional hours? Get MOMENT app and take stock of your habits, its the first step to effectively managing them.
//Record a decent voicemail message
Provide callers with a short but clear outline of your hours, availability and length of time it takes to reply generally. Update your VM when you’re on leave or the situation changes. Most Telcos allow you to have a VM for when the phone is busy, when you’re out of reception or simply dont answer. Get these to work for you.
// Use shortcuts to acknowledge texts
I really don’t like texting from my smartphone. I much prefer to use iMessage from my laptop to reply to texts in full (especially for work stuff). If youre on the road, or out and about – use the shortcuts to reply to texts with pre-set replies to a) acknowledge the text/communication and b) provide a response time — unless of course it’s a simple enquiry that can be handled under 20-30 seconds.
// Have an informative email signature
Your email signature is a useful way to remind people of your hours and availability. Remember to add one to the mail client you use from your smartphone (get rid of the ‘sent from my <insert name of device>’) and let them know responses sent ‘on the go’ might be briefer than usual. SUe an auto-responder when youre out in meetings for a full day or at a conference, or at home sick. Communicating with customers and colleagues helps them adjust and manage their expectations.
// Use the auto-responder and replies function on your social media pages
Facebook recognises how important communication with clients/followers is and has a special function to automatically reply to all messages. Again it’s about acknowledging ‘ your email IS important’ but so is downtime and not all businesses, no matter how hard working can be there 24/7.
>> GOT AN ISSUE WITH WORK EXPECTATIONS OF YOU TO BE CONSTANTLY CONNECTED? NEED HELP? TELL ME ABOUT IT — go here