With most of the country in a deep freeze this winter – a day off from work or school due to inclement weather may mean sleeping in late, playing in the snow or enjoying a warm drink by the fireplace. However with an abundance of communication tools and technology, a snow day might mean you checking email or holding a conference call in the kitchen as you watch neighborhood kids build snowmen or your significant other clear the driveway. For those of you without electricity, it may mean making your way to a local coffee shop with power and WIFI to work on a major project.
While the idea of the “always on” workplace may seem like it’s interfering with moments like family time, weekends, vacations or even a snow day — not all U.S. workers think so. In a recent survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), a majority of working Americans said communication technology allows them to be more productive and gives them added flexibility. On the flipside, many workers feel that communication overload makes it difficult to stop thinking about work and relax and an increased workload.
In Sodexo’s 2014 Workplace Trends Report, Dr. David Ballard of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence explains that companies have a role in making sure that technology and communications can work for both the business and the employee: “Although people are often given the advice to unplug in order to avoid the unhealthy effects of their hyper-connected lives that doesn’t necessarily require a complete ‘digital detox.’” Ways that companies can help include:
Make technology a help, not a hindrance. Too many system glitches or complicated programs can lead to frustration and lost time trying to fix problems or learn new software.
Understand your workforce. Learn more about your employees’ attitudes about communication technology and their confidence to master those tools.
Examine your culture. Do the norms and expectations that exist in your organization function as a set of unspoken rules that promote an “always-on” mentality?
Provide guidance, not rules. Communicate the importance of recovery time and help employees develop healthy habits when it comes to their use of information and communication technology.
In the end, our computers and mobile devices are just tools. By taking a thoughtful approach to how we use them, information and communication technologies can enhance our lives by helping us achieve our individual and collective goals, connecting us to others and helping us to be healthier, happier and more productive.