We work in a fast-paced and competitive business world that begs us to be accessible. In fact, Western society frowns on being “unavailable.” In a Forbes.com article, Judy Martin aptly noted: “We’re living in an era of technology that has altered our workplace culture to the extent that 24/7 access to employees is doable and common in many sectors.” It’s like we forgot how to use the “off” button or the functionally titled “do not disturb” option on the iPhone. We have hopped on board and are sailing along on a sea of accessibility. But at what cost?
Advanced technology has allowed us to boost efficiency and productivity. We’ve allowed it to kill them. Especially in the workplace. Open your email inbox right now. How many new emails do you have since you last checked? Probably dozens, and you likely checked it just recently. How about text messages? Or instant messages on your internal network? Emails, messages, voicemails, phone calls…they’re like wildfires. And because of our compunction to be available 24-7, we spend our time putting them out…or at least attempting to. You’re not alone if you’ve found yourself saying, “I spend so much time putting out fires that I don’t get anything done!”
Technology will never set and keep boundaries. Nor will it help you prioritize. You, alone, are responsible for determining your boundaries and then effectively positioning your coworkers to understand them. Your “To Do” list will continually grow longer, leaving you feeling unaccomplished and unhappy, when you don’t develop a plan to keep the lure of accessibility in check. Schedule time for putting out fires. That may sound laughable to you, but you’ll soon find yourself spending more and more energy (that you, your coworkers, and your company need) on planning, developing, and executing; and your days of firefighting will disappear like smoke. That’s what workplace fires are, smoke that veils purpose, productivity, and profitability.
If you’re a boss who expects your team to be available 24-7 and respond to you immediately at all times, you will be responsible for creating an atmosphere of chaos, crushed morale, and dwindling profits. It’s up to those of us in decision-making positions to encourage work practices that are proactive and produce the positive results you, your team, and ultimately, your organization, need. Teach your team to employ boundaries and reward proactive and not reactive work habits. Be a leader and put technology to work for you, rather than against you.