Technology, working hours and the global village: Can we ever really turn off?

Author: Cronofy

2nd July 2014

Technology is great. But it can be a real pain in the proverbial.

Over the last couple of decades our world has changed considerably. It has become smaller and far better connected. This new global village means that, as well as it always being 5pm and therefore time for a glass of plonk, it is always within working hours for colleagues and connections in another part of the world.

Turn off technology

It’s no wonder then that many of us find it hard to switch off when we leave the office, and too often find ourselves checking emails after the kids have gone to bed and answering phone calls at 6am.

It’s come to be expected of us that we are always available and in work mode, but just because we have the gadgets and technology that encourage this it does not mean this is helpful or right.

What would happen if we actually did turn everything off (or, at the very least put the phone on silent and pledged not to check it for a few hours)?

Going off the grid

In France, federations and unions have now signed a labour agreement which stipulates that staff must “disconnect” when they go home. They should ignore all work-related calls, emails or documents that come through to their mobile devices once they have left the office. Specifically aimed at workers in the tech and consultancy industries, it is great for staff who deserve time to unwind at the end of a hard day, but not so great for businesses that operate on global timescales.

Most companies now operate across at least two different time zones, so some staff must be available round the clock in each country of operation to ensure that business can continue whether the clock on the wall says 2am or 2pm.

The French policy could ultimately harm businesses, but for workers it could make a huge difference to their work/life balance and how they feel about their jobs. And in the long-term, knowing that they don’t have to sacrifice family and social time may encourage a more positive, and therefore productive, attitude towards work.

Flexibility vs. switching off

Working from home, or the coffee shop, the park, the football pitch sidelines or ballet class benches, can be a positive, motivating and sensible option for many. But there must always be a time to switch off completely and do those things that our hard-earned cash allow us to do.

Flexibility in working hours and locations is hugely beneficial, but we should all keep our time in check to ensure we do not devote more hours to emails, reports and spreadsheets than kids, hobbies and general merriment.

For a long-term, in-depth look at work-life balance stay up-to-date with Google’s gDNA study which aims to understand work attitudes and experiences over the next century.

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Date: 2nd July 2014 | Category: Productivity