#AskSpirus: So, Cambridge – how do you deal with being “Connected 24/7”? Where do *you* draw the line?
Our #askspirus question to Cambridge businesses this month was:
So, Cambridge – how do you deal with being “Connected 24/7”? Where do *you* draw the line?
With summer holidays just beginning, we thought this was particularly topical. Let’s face it, our connectivity has changed dramatically in the last three years – are we ever allowed real time off? The BBC reported recently that a working practices study* found that nearly half of managers work an extra day every week in unpaid overtime thanks to answering e-mails and conference calls out of hours, and over 90% work over and above their contracted hours.
Our target audience was Cambridge based businesses, with a particular focus on smaller businesses with 1-10 employees, and a few which operate on a 24 hour basis.
The concept of being connected 24/7 struck an immediate chord with every business we spoke with. And sometimes, it was seen as a real positive.
If you work part-time, it enables you to keep your eye on deadlines outside of your working hours, enabling a better work-life balance and more productive hours while actually at work. Being able to work when small children are sleeping, for example, will certainly help save on childcare costs.
Quick, out of hours response can boost business too: one General Manager we spoke to, who runs a private, family-owned hotel, said that she weighed up being on call 24/7 with the increase in custom due to the ability to respond to guest queries quickly. Director of IT for Starters, Richard Hughes, said he realised that in a lot of instances it’s his addictiveness to internet mobile devices that kept him connected and not necessarily work – although if you are connected, work often finds you. This sentiment was echoed by a few more businesses including one that admitted he is NEVER switched off!
However, being available 24/7 can lead to undue stress and eventual burnout, which obviously reduces productivity and motivation.
It was interesting to find that most businesses have made up their own rules about being connected and more importantly, switching off. This is clearly a widespread culture, and one businesses are taking seriously. Of course there are benefits, but the general consensus of the businesses we spoke to, and the original study, is that everyone needs proper time off. Here are some of the rules we were told about that you might find useful:
• Don’t reply on a weekend unless it is an EMERGENCY (define emergency…!). Replying will create an expectation that you are always available, which is simply not sustainable.
• Exercise! You can’t be connected when you are running or swimming.
• Switch off all internet mobile devices at 10pm (fun and work!)
• Go on a holiday where there is no mobile internet or wifi. It will force you to make the necessary arrangements before you leave. (Remember how you used to arrange to meet up with people before we all had mobiles?)
• Informal company policies include “leave me alone when I’m on holiday and text if absolutely necessary”
• Realise that occasionally not being available might make you more desirable (as a business of course!)
• Have a work mobile and a personal mobile
We end with some comment from Business Growth Specialist, Ann Hawkins. “It’s a very old fashioned idea that productivity is tied to the number of hours employees work (or attend a workplace) rather than by measuring the results they achieve. The most productive, creative and successful people recognise that recreation (re-creation) is as necessary as food, drink, sleep and exercise. Long hours are not productive, they are a symptom of a business that does not value its workers. TRUST is necessary to make this work – but work it does.”
One thing that was absolutely clear from businesses surveyed; the world didn’t actually end after a period of not being connected. Perhaps we should all give it a go a little more often.
*Research was conducted by the Institute of Leadership and Management