BED MATES – Does The Rise Of Working From Home, Bring On The Fall Of Our Boundaries?
Small businesspeople are amazing. The way we leap from role to role – salesperson to stock-taker, policy writer to performance manager, chief of finance to cleaner of the office fridge. Our flexibility and creativity are boundless. And with the advances and changes in technology, we can do it all at our kitchen bench, in the supermarket carpark or beside the sports oval on a Wednesday night. We can do our marketing from the shopping mall and meet virtually, with anyone, anywhere. Anytime we want.
Our accounts, documents and client management systems are always at our fingertips. This makes following up faster and finishing those last-minute tasks so much easier to do. It also means we don’t have to dress up and drive into meetings, fly interstate or fiddle with folders and paperwork like we used to.
Being connected digitally is incredibly handy. It’s useful, practical and in many ways, life changing. I mean, here you are reading this on a screen. Here I am, typing, cat by my side, tea at the ready, as the autumn sun beams through my living room window.
Technology is a treasure. It helps us save so much time. Or does it?
I’m not going to quote statistics here, let’s just check in our own practices.
Think back over your last working week. Count up the answers on your fingers as you go.
How many times OUTSIDE of your normal working hours did you:
- Check you emails?
- Respond to a clients message, text or call?
- Ask someone to ‘just wait a moment’ while you finished a work-related task on your phone, tablet or computer?
- Took your technology to the bathroom, the living room or to bed?
- Looked at your screen for work reasons while having breakfast, lunch or dinner?
- Took more than ‘just five more minutes’ to complete something before leaving the task and returning to your family, friends or other non-work related activity?
We all do it.
If you found yourself running out of fingers when counting, your technology use has crept beyond the boundaries of your work hours and you might be suffering an imbalance.
Think about how quickly we blame our teenagers for what we consider excessive use of their screens. But are we using ‘work’ as an excuse to be on ours all the time as well?
Our technology has become so embedded in our daily lives and so accessible, we can’t put it down. The allure and ease of being connected to can make us feel like we don’t ever get a break. And despite technology’s ability to draw us together, it can drain and disconnect us from our homes, families, communities and sense of self.
The ease of things can make them insidious. (I think here of shopping with credit cards. How they can make life easy in the moment, but can become a slippery slope if overused or relied on.)
So we need to be alert. We need to become aware of our tech and work habits and ask ourselves –
- ‘Is what I’m doing now healthy?
- Is this making my life, relationships and work better?
- Or am I too connected and not able to get a break from my work?
- Is this beginning to feel excessive or harmful?’
- These are not questions to ask once. We need to ask them regularly, daily, sometimes moment by moment.
If you identified earlier that your boundaries might be too soft (or non existent) around your technology, practice paying attention to how you feel when you’re working. If you notice you’re feeling tired or like you never get a break. If you start to feel resentful towards your clients, customers or the interruptions that happen throughout the day. Or if your ‘never-ending workload’ sends you into overwhelm, check in and ask, when was the last time I had a full day (or two) where I didn’t check my emails, quickly do some banking or answer a work-related call. If it was more than a week ago, it’s time to schedule one.
We all need downtime. And a mini detox from our digital world can bring as many benefits as being constantly connected.
Let’s use our tools to serve us in our work and keep clean boundaries around our time so our relationships, family and community can continue to flourish.