The lifestyle downside of an always-on world

work-life balance

Did you work over the weekend?

I don’t mean clock-on, clock-off, sit at a desk kind of work. I mean the ‘accidental’ work, such as opening a work email, texting a client or workmate, participating in a business Facebook group, booking a ticket to a business event and so on.

Chances are that you did, and ended up working when you didn’t intend to.

Weekend keyboard warriors

Take the weekend just past for example. My plan for the weekend was to undertake no work duties whatsoever. I could do things around the house, exercise and socialise. Or so I thought.

Instead, I managed to:

  • Write a media release using Google Docs on my iPad;
  • Engage with at least five people in Facebook business groups;
  • Check my online banking twice to check the passage of inbound business funds;
  • Text two clients on work matters;
  • Take three voicemail messages from clients (though I deferred responding to them till Monday); and
  • Check a ‘resume’ of a prospective contractor on LinkedIn.

So without either planning or thinking about it—or setting foot from my lounge room—I conducted a range of unplanned business tasks.

Distraction from leisure

It’s kind of the opposite of workplace social media.

While workers are often tempted to check their social media updates during work hours, and this can have a negative impact their productivity, business owners often find themselves doing some work tasks they had no intention of doing during non-work hours. And often forget they ever did.

Blurred lines

What’s happened is that the once clear line between work and play has now blurred considerably. Now business owners and managers are able to conduct business without setting foot near the workplace. And the main culprit is our mobile phones.

Whereas in the not too distant past, you needed traditional tools like desks, landline phones, fixed computers and so on to work, nowadays work is literally at your fingertips by way of the ubiquitous mobile (and to a lesser degree, tablets).

Therefore the temptation is constantly there to check that work email, send that text, or order that supply.

Eek! Commerce

This effect is even more pronounced with those operating an e-commerce website. With their ‘shop’ open 24/7, orders can literally appear at any time at all, as can customer queries.

Without strict adherence to set working hours, it’s all too easy to process the order out of hours and lose valuable leisure and family time.

This trend isn’t just anecdotal. A 2015 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey told us that 82,000 Australian managers (presumably including owner-operators) put in more than 70 hours per week at work—more than any other group.

While responding quickly is an excellent business goal, it can leave the manager feeling as if they’ve never really stopped working and they no doubt experience greater work stress.

The promised land?

But wasn’t technology supposed to make things easier and less stressful?

You could imagine that was the intention. But the reality is it has just made it easier to conduct your business pretty much anywhere at any time.

The problem is the technology that is designed to allow us to work when we are away from our office—particularly when travelling—allows us to take work home with us too.

Therefore it’s important to set strict guidelines about after-hours work activities and ensure they are adhered to.

After all, the tasks will still be there when you start work the next business day.

In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.

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