Friday, October 18, 2013

Working After Hours

You're familiar with the phenomenon. With the advent of email, and more extensively with VPN's and other means to access company servers remotely, and now smartphones, we have 24/7 jobs (i.e. we 'work' 24 hours, 7 days a week), including holidays and vacations (PTO's). At least one company has put a ban on email after 10 pm. They did it so employees could get some sleep, and get some rest from work on the weekends.

I wonder why they had to create this policy. Are we so gullible to falling into slavery that we feel we need to work all the time in order to keep our jobs? Perhaps it's just tech slavery? Or we dislike our lives outside of work that we want to work all the time? We love living on candy bars and caffeine in order to compensate for the lack of sleep and rest? We're so unproductive during work hours that we have to catch up after our scheduled time? My guess is that it was management that was the worst offenders. Hourly, non-exempt staff shouldn't be falling into any of these traps.

I resisted smartphones for the longest time so that I could limit my exposure to work when I was out of the office. I had to make a deliberate choice to power on the laptop. If I did send emails in the evening or into the wee hours of the morning, I did not expect a response until people had a chance to come back into their office. I communicated this to my staff also. I didn't expect them to be checking emails every 15 minutes. I didn't want them distracting themselves from personal time. They're not getting paid to work 24/7 and so they shouldn't. I did expect them to be focused while at work, whether it was in "the" office or a home office or on the road with clients, etc.

Here are some more questions for the creators of "zmail": What aspects of their company culture 'required' 24/7 jobs prior to the new policy? (Perhaps this is something to consider fixing.) If their staff is scattered across several time zones, would local time prevail with regard to the 'curfew' or is it headquarters' time? Expand this scope internationally, and now how do you envision the curfew?

It's going to come down to us to be the role models and take responsibility for how we behave, and how we live out our values and expectations of others.

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