Connected, 24 x 7: Boon or Bane?

by Jennifer Berry on February 22, 2012

At a recent meeting with our sales team, one of our regional directors commented that he receives emails from me at crazy times — late at night, early in the morning, all hours of the day and night. This comment prompted a response from one of the partners that I was “connected 24 x 7″.

This got me thinking. Is that the expectation of the powers-that-be? Is that the expectation of others in the organization, that all inquiries will be answered whether they are on or off working hours? Or is that merely my expectation of myself? I don’t remember the partners sitting me down when I joined MIPRO telling me that if I was going to work here that I was expected to keep physician’s hours and be on-call at all times. The human resources manager did not have me read aloud a section in the employee handbook requiring around-the-clock availability. No one inside the organization makes me feel like they expect a response on the weekend or at 4:30 AM. Yet before I have my first cup of coffee, before my feet hit the floor in the morning, before I even rub the sleep out of my eyes, I reach for my BlackBerry to see what the day holds in store for me.

I never understood the term “crackberry” until I bought my BlackBerry but oh how I understand now. I have never had an addiction to anything, not to alcohol, drugs, video games, gambling…nothing (well maybe shoe shopping) – until my cute little pink Blackberry Curve came into my life. I try not to look at her, really I do. But I just can’t help myself. But I do think about technology, how it affects us and impacts our lives.

Remember before we had smartphones? Before we even had cell phones? Before our phones even had answering machines? Before laptops and home computers? When you left work, you LEFT work. It was still there the next day. And miraculously businesses survived and they managed to make profits. Yet here we are today, connected 24 x 7. Is it good; is it bad?? I don’t know — but I DO know that you will still get emails from me at crazy hours (responding no doubt to your emails at crazy hours). We have all heard of the Type A and Type B personalities but maybe technology has created the Type A+ personality.

A few days after writing down these rambling thoughts, I was sitting in my CPA’s office, waiting to get my taxes done, and I picked up HOUR Detroit magazine. And I read an article, Tethered by Technology, written about the exact same thoughts that had gone through my mind. Actual studies and research have been done around this constant connectedness. People will forego sex, go shoeless and give up alcohol before giving up their mobile devices. And companies are not requiring employees to be connected at all times or to work outside of work hours; employees are doing this willingly. So if companies are not indoctrinating employees with these “connectedness” policies, maybe technology is just affording employees the ability to work to their fullest potential while allowing them to offer their companies a new level of commitment and service. At MIPRO this connectedness is part of our company culture from the top down, trickle-down in action.   But will this open-ended workday be the new norm? Should it be the new norm?

What are your thoughts?

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