Monday, August 11, 2014

If You’re Always Working, You’re Never Working Well

Michael Harris at the Harvard Business Review writes about work-life separation, claiming that If You’re Always Working, You’re Never Working Well. After you read his excellent piece, you may recognize this all-too-familiar scenario: it's the evening or weekend, and you pick up your phone and find yourself flipping through work email. You believe you're a very productive person, always "on" even when you're supposed to be in downtime.

We tell ourselves that we're just picking off the easy emails, maybe deleting some unnecessary things, doing a quick review of others to make sure nothing is "exploding" back at the office. We may claim that this quick check actually makes us more productive—but we're just fooling ourselves. According to recent research (PDF), the cost of such interrupted time is more speed and more stress. We're making ourselves less efficient by trying to be more efficient.

From the article: (emphasis mine)
And let’s not forget about ambient play, which often distracts us from accomplishing our most important tasks. Facebook and Twitter report that their sites are most active during office hours. After all, the employee who’s required to respond to her boss on Sunday morning will think nothing of responding to friends on Wednesday afternoon. And research shows that these digital derailments are costly: it’s not only the minutes lost responding to a tweet but also the time and energy required to “reenter” the original task. As Douglas Gentile, a professor at Iowa State University who studies the effects of media on attention spans, explains, “Everyone who thinks they’re good at multitasking is wrong. We’re actually multiswitching [and] giving ourselves extra work.”
But that constant "connectedness" is also a detraction from good work-life balance. And the danger here is that we become too connected to work when we're on personal time, then become easily distracted when we return to work. This "always on" mentality drains energy—energy that you'll need to be creative and productive the next day at work.

How often have you found yourself checking work email from your phone, over the weekend, during the evening, or on vacation? Make the choice to disconnect in a smart way, to maintain your work-life balance. I challenge you to find your own way to completely relax while outside of work. What keeps bringing you back to check your email? Maybe it's that the phone is right there next to you while you're watching TV. Try leaving the phone on a shelf; it's there if you need it, and you can still hear it if someone calls you, but you won't have easy access to check "just one more" work email during the commercial break.

If you're on-call, that's one thing to stay connected. But when you aren't on-call, you should do your best to maintain that work-life balance.
photo: Chris Brown

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.