The arrival of smart-phones began a radical change in how connected we are to work outside of regular office hours. Technology has rapidly advanced and we have become more and more connected. Now, the global pandemic has integrated work into home life which blurs the boundaries even more and can make it hard to take a real break.
This HBR article talks about a Myers-Briggs study that explored how personality types view and cope with an always-on culture. The results might not surprise you. The majority felt the disadvantages of always being connected overshadowed any advantages. Being part of an always-on culture led to higher-stress, conflict at home, distractions at work and lack of focus. Sound familiar?
No matter what the personality type, most participants of the study drew on four strategies. Identify which strategies you think will work for you, and commit to them so you can begin to offset any negative impacts of over-connection.
- Prioritize switching off. Switching off can mean different things to different people. Extraverts might want to do something active with a partner if physical distancing permits. An introvert might need to be absorbed in a quieter activity to recharge. The bottom line is that no matter what your type, book it in your calendar and honour the commitment to yourself.
- Beware of Information Overload. First, take a breath. Stop running through all of the possibilities and focus on what is important without getting lost in the details. If it will help ground you, ask a colleague for their take – but don’t obsess about getting everything perfect.
- Boundaries. Boundaries are important for you and the people you work with. If you tend to prioritize supporting others, make sure you’re also finding time to look after yourself. Identify what you need and make a conscious effort to make it happen. On the other hand, if you tend to be direct and task-focused consider what impact you might be having on someone else’s boundaries. Your communication may come across as cold and demanding. Without speaking to someone face-to-face (even if it’s over MS Teams or Zoom) important context can be lost.
- Find a balance that works for you. Some people find it easiest to set established times for when you will or won’t be connected, and that can be effective. Just make sure you communicate with your team and prepare to be flexible. Others might find that the ability to flex work hours is exactly what they need. Just be respectful if you’re working outside normal office hours – others may feel pressured when they see email or chat requests at odd times.
Think about how connected you are, and what changes you might need to make to bring yourself into balance. Don’t forget to consider the impact you might be having on those around you. Try a few different methods and when you find something that works, make keeping your balance a priority and stick with it.