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Are we switching off after hours?

Date

Gadgets on the go

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian freelance technology journalist with a passion for gadgets and the "digital lounge room".

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A man looks at his email on a Blackberry

A man looks at his email on a Blackberry

Are we getting better at saying "no" to work?

As high-tech gadgets creep into every corner of our lives, they unfortunately seem to bring work with them. Smartphones are making it even harder to get away from work, but it's not a new phenomenon. Years ago when many organisations started introducing schemes offering discount home computers for staff, I was suspicious that the real motive was to give us the tools to put in a few hours of unpaid overtime.

Once you've got a computer at home, it's not long before you start bringing home work. At first it's just a "once off" to catch up on a few things during an insanely busy week. But it's a slippery slope and pretty soon you find yourself working every night after dinner and maybe during your daily commute. As big organisations try to do more with less, you'll struggle to claw the time back.

Work-issued smartphones make it even harder to take your mind off work if they're constantly ringing, or pinging to alert you to new messages. I still think that smartphones have a role to play in work/life balance, as they can make it easier to get away from your desk for a while. I get annoyed at people who frown on parents checking their messages while they're at a school concert or playing with their kids at the park. If that parent didn't have the smartphone, perhaps they'd be stuck at their desk instead. Smartphones give us greater flexibility during so-called "work hours", but at the end of the day it's important to put work aside.

A new survey from Human Resources vendor NorthgateArinso claims that Australians are actually getting better at saying "no" to work. According to the survey results; 

- Fewer workers make work-related calls from home this year (24%) than last year (36%)

- Fewer workers check emails at home this year (38%) versus last year (46%)

- Fewer workers feel that work is intruding on their personal life this year (39%) versus last (52%)

- Fewer companies are providing employees with laptops this year 24% versus last (35%)

I'm quite surprised by these results, except for the last figure because more organisations are encouraging staff to use their own laptops for work. NorthgateArinso's ANZ managing director David Page thinks the shift could partly be to cultural change within organisations, as they realise that "online fatigue" can actually make workers less productive rather than more. This might be the case with some enlightened bosses, but I expect they're in a minority.

What's your boss' approach to working after hours? Are they becoming more understanding, or are we just getting better at saying no?

13 comments so far

  • I work on call so I work 24/7/365 (366 this year) but rarely do I do any non-urgent work at home. It definitely can take its toll after a few nights woken up between 12-6am. Smart phones have made my life a LOT easier though. Now I can just go out with my phone with everything I need on it rather than having to carry a laptop around.

    Commenter
    Ollie
    Date and time
    May 04, 2012, 1:58PM
    • I have a colleugue who provides IT tech support and he spend 90% of his time driving between jobs talking to other clients on his hands free mobile phone. In effect his 8 hour day extends an extra 2 to 3 hours.
      Me, I used to switch off my Nokia in heavy traffic, bad weather or just wanting a break. With the smartphones (especially the apple one) it can take up to 1 minutes to shut it down and up to 2 minutes to boot it back up. (Even on vibrate it can be distracting when driving) My old Nokia used to take 15 seconds.
      I wish I still had my old Nokia. Wife is still in the bad books for leaving it overseas.

      Commenter
      Chris
      Date and time
      May 04, 2012, 2:13PM
      • 'Dumb' phones still cover 50% of the market. If you want one they're extremely cheap.

        Commenter
        Peter
        Location
        Oz
        Date and time
        May 04, 2012, 8:08PM
    • I'd love someone to do a study comparing the rise of BYOD to the number of data-loss incidents, server malware incidents and IT support tickets within those companies. I think you'd find they track quite closely.

      Commenter
      DM
      Date and time
      May 04, 2012, 2:39PM
      • At my place of work, BYOD = no tech support. And the people who BTOD tend not to be the ones that need IT support anyway.

        Commenter
        Honey Badger
        Date and time
        May 04, 2012, 7:47PM
    • there's less work this year to do :(

      Commenter
      grant
      Location
      melb
      Date and time
      May 04, 2012, 4:15PM
      • lol

        "Fewer workers make work-related calls from home this year (24%) than last year (36%)"

        = people are increasingly avoiding having to actually talk to others where possible. We have text, emai, and *shudder* facebook now.

        "Fewer workers check emails at home this year (38%) versus last year (46%)"

        = because they did all that during the long ride along the freeway on their way home using their 'smart' phone.

        "Fewer workers feel that work is intruding on their personal life this year (39%) versus last (52%)"

        = People are becoming increasingly accustomed to the perverse idea of a wholly integrated 'working life' where they are never truly not at work.

        "Fewer companies are providing employees with laptops this year 24% versus last (35%)"

        = People are increasingly being expected to use their own laptops paid for out of their own pockets (as the author noted).

        My boss treats the issue in a way that I am happy with - she doesn't care how, where, or when - so long as I get the job done (I am a PhD student in a biomedical science institute).

        Commenter
        Honey Badger
        Date and time
        May 04, 2012, 7:45PM
        • "Fewer workers feel that work is intruding on their personal life this year"
          That's called normalisation. Its not an intrusion if its taken for granted.
          "Fewer companies are providing employees with laptops"
          That's called BYOD.

          Regards

          Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/computers/blogs/gadgets-on-the-go/are-we-switching-off-after-hours-20120504-1y33s.html#ixzz1ttU0Fyjz

          Commenter
          Peter
          Location
          Oz
          Date and time
          May 04, 2012, 8:04PM
          • The problem used to be, that we would check messages and try to send text replies while driving our cars. Now we have mobile WiFi devices in our cars. So while texting used to be a dangerous and challenging activity, try entering Ctlr Alt Dlte to log on to your laptop while cruising the Hume highway at 6-00pm at night.

            Commenter
            Steve Sydney
            Location
            Sydney
            Date and time
            May 04, 2012, 8:24PM
            • Most of the time in my professional life to date as a Lawyer I have been self employed and remain so.But I have been employed and had employers suffer from the delusion that employees can and should be available at any time of the night.....to work.Occaisionally this is reasonable.Occaisionally.For this to be the case long term whereby people's personal lives are sacrificed for "the firm"...(read partners pockets") is simply stupid

              .People who allow this to occur as employtees have themselves to blame .You only get one life and if you are stupid enough to be bullied or manipulated into losing it for someone elses gain,and kid yourself that you are enjoying yourself having no personal life then no one can help you.Anyway.you will lose your life to the firm, even if you make "partner".As to technology in this scenario, it is like a road into your life after normal business hours.TURN IT OFF and if you are not allowed to...or you feel that you cannot afford to....get another job.
              I answer my own phone late at night regarding work matters but then I make my own money.I get to be compensated for doing that and compensated well....but its my decision when and how i do that...I keep a "life".

              Commenter
              Malcolm
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              May 05, 2012, 4:52PM

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