Optimising our always-on culture …

More and more Businesses will need to focus on how they will optimise the always on culture whilst protecting the wellbeing of those colleagues who work for them.

Many CEOs see smartphones as a way to increase productivity and it appeals to multinationals where team member operate in different time zones. When communication is restricted to ‘normal’ working hours it slows things down and communication can spread across days.

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Whilst the benefits of a 24/7 always on approach are apparent in our personal lives such as connecting with our families anytime anywhere in the world, it has meant a blurring of boundaries between work and home. Employees have even found to feel obliged to look at emails outside of working hours and even on holiday.

When our smartphones are always on we struggle to switch off. This is the always on culture, and it contributes to stress in the workplace. Employees who are tired, stressed and dissatisfied perform below their best, are more likely to make mistakes and will be less skilled in interacting with their colleagues or customers. In addition it can have a knock on negative effect on family life, health, life satisfaction and sleep quality.

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Typical productivity growth has been negative in advanced countries since 2007, with declines in productivity linked to increase in shipments of smartphones. Always on however does not mean always performing. It can however lead to stress and people leaving the company which affects the bottom line. So how do we move from always on to sometimes off?

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The right to disconnect is growing in popularity (France and Italy are implementing the workers right to disconnect laws) knowing how to disconnect is a skill and employers need to support this. Restricting OOH email usage and deleting emails sent to vacationing colleagues could help.

Tips to reduce email stress include: send fewer, respond quickly, be clear concise and correct, take care with chains and copying, stick to the working day, be polite, think about your audience. Create a digital manifesto or work manifesto regarding time in and out of work. See newworkmanifesto.org for a great example of what this could look like. (Presume permission, 40 hrs is enough, reclaim your lunch, give us some room, digital sabbath at the weekend, the only way is ethics, got to be me, laugh)

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A new approach to time management is needed. Managing collective time can reap rewards – this may include mandatory time off, better work life balance, learning more on the job, and stopping the madness of meetings. The individual has to take control ultimately and leaders can lead by example and this is crucial. Reasonable guidelines and expectations need to be set by leaders and the teams that everyone is happy with.

Understanding personality and behaviour is key as people with different personality types will use social media and digital channels in different ways. And will be affected by the always fon culture in different ways. Some will get a buzz whilst some will feel exhausted – adapting behaviours and guidelines to accommodate our differences is key.

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