In college, I wanted a Blackberry. I wanted one badly. (Sad, I know.) Unfortunately, I had this EnV phone that was ‘cool’ for others my age (lame), but when I would text on it, it looked like I was playing a video game with the way it flipped up. I needed to look more ‘professional’ and ‘mature,’ and Blackberry had that reputation at the time.
My boss at the time just got a Blackberry, too. I noticed a huge change with her once she started using it — she was always connected and emailing. When I finally got one too, I remember her telling me, “Devan, your life is about to change—you’re already so busy and it’s about to get worse with that phone.”
Little did I know, she was right. It created a total monster in me. I was already involved in way too many things at school (and outside school) and was always checking email/calling people during any free time I had.
And it didn’t stop after college. I worked for multiple companies after I graduated, and I had all my work email sent to my phone. When I was working at one company, I would get a hectic email from the other, and then I couldn’t be very present where I was. It was distracting. With every buzzing notification, the more stressed I became.
Finally, I decided to turn it off during the day so I would only check email on my time. But that didn’t work well either, because I would still check it incessantly out of fear I was missing something. I would check it on the train, the bus, after work, before work, on the weekends, on vacation, etc.
It came time that I had to draw the line.
I completely disconnected my work email from my phone. I would only check it during work hours (when I was actually being PAID for it) and not on evenings and weekends. It actually made sense, since most of the time I couldn’t do anything about the email until work the next day anyway.
I cannot tell you how much stress it relieved!
It was hard at first. I was addicted and would crave to check my inbox “just to make sure,” but eventually I learned to enjoy my freedom. My companies knew they couldn’t reach me at any given time, and in turn, I set boundaries around my work.
To this day, I have other colleagues who are demanded to always be on-call and check email after work hours and on weekends. And I think it’s wrong.
Yes. That’s what I said. I think it’s wrong.
Here’s why: Nobody likes being chained to the ever-growing inbox. And if you are someone who is actively on the defense (instead of offense) in regard to your emails, you’re never really getting ahead…and you probably resent its encroachment on your personal time. Making employees (or yourself) a slave to the inbox isn’t healthy. It makes for very unhappy, stressed out people. And I’m calling for a group effort to make this shift happen.
You may be thinking, “But there has to be exceptions to the rule, right? Right. Let’s be realistic here.
I will check email and do work outside of work with this exception:
I often work remotely, and if I have things like doctors appointments during the day and I miss half the day, I still have work that needs to get done. When this is the case, I’ll work later that night, get up early the next day, or work Saturday morning from a coffee shop to get it done.
The bottom line: As long as you’re putting in the appropriate amount of hours and getting your work done in a timely fashion, you shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to answer every email right as it comes in.
Other people (and countries) are catching on to this, too:
France recently instilled a no email-checking after 6 p.m. policy on work days for daily contract employees. Along with this new policy, French workers already have the perks of a shortened 35 hour work week and _five_ weeks paid vacation.
Germany hopped on board as well, banning workers from calling or emailing employees after work hours. This effort, put in place by the Labour Ministry, works to cut down on employee burn out—and has seen great success. In fact, Germany’s unemployment rate sits at only five percent—one of the lowest in the European region.
And Switzerland is taking note of the dangers of incessant email-checking, too. Swisscom manager Carsten Schloter told The Telegraph, “The most dangerous thing that can happen is that you drop into a mode of permanent activity,” he said. “When you permanently check your smartphone to see if there are any new emails, it leads to you not finding any rest whatsoever.”
Would you ever consider this at your company?
Restlessness is only the beginning of the unhappiness cycle when it comes to constant connectivity. For me, disconnecting from work during non-work hours helps me focus on my personal life and allows me to be present with my family and friends. And when I’m at work, I have more focus and concentration because I know I have to get everything done before the end of the day (because I will not do more work once I leave the office.)
While we live in a world that offers constant connectivity, there still exists our ability (and choice!) to disconnect and re-charge our mental batteries. And we all have the ability to set boundaries in our work life (even if it doesn’t always feel like it.) It’s up to you: Are you willing to make the leap into no-email evenings and weekends? Or is it a slow, weaning-off process? What are your fears in regard to making that change?