Photo: Kevin McShane via flickr
Before our ability to constantly stay connected, most people didn’t work as much as they do now. They occasionally brought work home, but there wasn’t a device that blinked every time a new message arrived. As a result, employees are spending hours of overtime responding to emails, checking voicemails and adhering to the needs of their employers.
Two-thirds of respondents in a survey by the IT services company Neverfail say they brought their smartphones or laptops along with them on vacation.
But all of this overtime doesn’t actually help productivity. To test this out, Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow and her team spent a year at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to examine the work habits of employees. They found that when employees were able to take breaks from their digital devices, their health, happiness and productivity improved.
Wharton University wrote about the study:
“The work load is, at first, reasonable and manageable. A consultant working for a client in a different time zone, for example, makes himself or herself available well beyond the actual working day. Competition fuels this blurring of the workweek: If I don’t bend over backward for the client, goes the thinking, the competition will.
“Not only do we have difficulty maintaining personal boundaries with work because our lives and jobs are so enmeshed with technology, but we also feel intense pressure from our organisations to be ‘always on’ and immediately responsive to calls and emails outside of normal working hours.
But as employees become increasingly available after-hours, clients and colleagues make increasing demands on their time, making it harder to plan and regulate the workload. Perlow calls this process the ‘cycle of responsiveness,’ with marginal increases in demands on time generating increased expectations that snowball and result in what effectively feels like a 24/7 workweek.”
The competition has gotten so fierce that a Pew Research study says that 65 per cent of adults actually keep a handheld device near or at their heads while sleeping — most likely so that they can hear if any “emergency” messages are delivered while they’re resting.
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