It was only a short beep on Pete’s BlackBerry; just when he is cutting the chocolate cake at a Saturday’s home party with family and friends. The request makes him nervous as he isn’t having the latest figures on Spain. So that results in another short text to Gerhard, who is spending a weekend with his girlfriend in Madrid. A few families see there weekend ruined.
Soon, this will be all history as companies are now seriously thinking about digital detox weekends. Major companies are implementing policies to reduce 7/7 accessibility. Already in 2011 Volkswagen silenced email messages after working hours; many other enterprises are taking similar initiatives.
This is all great; for two reasons. Firstly, in this digitally connected world, the thin line between work and private life is often blurred. And the problem is that we even don’t consider it as a problem. A study by Good Technology indicates that “Our family time also gets crowded by work emails and tasks – more than half of us (57%) will check work email during family outings and more than a third (38%) will check in while at the dinner table. … Half the people surveyed said that they read and responded to emails in bed and more than two thirds (69%) said they won’t go to sleep without checking their email first.” And remarkably but sadly: “Working after hours has become so commonplace that only 25% of those surveyed said it had led to a disagreement with a spouse or significant other. More than half said that there was no argument at all when work seeped into their personal time”. No surprise that we hear so much on burn-out. And secondly, other studies indicate that only 1 in 10 emails are useful or at least informative; all the rest is non-productive noise.
The upcoming digital detox policies are bringing good progress in assisting a decent work/life balance. I only wonder why we need policies on that. Decades ago, the general concept of weekends and weekly rest was introduced as all understood that you can’t stretch people 24/7. It was commonly agreed that the human brain and body needs a pause in order to perform adequately the days to follow.
But that general understanding has been “turned off” by Outlook, iPhone and Blackberry; technology has overtaken common sense. So it’s high time to go back to the basics and respect the physical and psychological needs of the human kind. As such, we shouldn’t produce those urgent weekend requests. We then also don’t need policies; policies that need to be reviewed, renegotiated, administered, communicated….. . Perhaps over a weekend? Keep it simple and set the example. Just inform people that in your company, it’s not expected to pick-up weekend calls or emails. And tell the team you will not produce any requests that need to be handled during off-time. Because you know that your digital addicted employees are just less productive and less engaged after working all weekend or all night.
Just do it; or better, don’t do it. No weekend mails as this –and all other- weekends “we are closed”. Weekends are for chocolate cake.