The Herman Trend Alert|
May 9, 2001
Turn It Off
We used to be able to disconnect from the office. Our home lives and our work lives were separate. In a world of e-mail, voicemail, pagers, cell phones, and personal digital assistants, it's becoming increasingly difficult to have a life outside of work.
These technological marvels are wonderful, except that they keep us so tethered to our work. We can no longer easily separate the workplace from the rest of our lives. With these connections, every place is the workplace. Result: burnout, severely reduced family and personal time, and shallow relationships with friends and family. We're trapped in a world that expects instant response 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
What does the future hold? We see two trends fighting each other. One trend is toward more technology, more connectedness. less personal freedom away from work. The other trend pushes in the other direction-rejecting intrusion of technology on personal lives.
Two forces drive these trends. One force flows from expectation that business-and those who work in business-will respond rapidly to every inquiry. The volume of work to be accomplished demands that employees do whatever it takes to get the job done, including working long hours and being available during other hours. Without enough people to get all the work done, everyone must do more . . . and be available more.
The alternative force flows from desires of people to have more balance in their lives. That phrase is a nice way to say people don't want to work all the time. At some point, they want to get off the merry-go-round. They want to turn it off. This movement is growing. More people are insisting on leaving their work at work. They don't want to carry pagers, cell phones, and other devices that make them accessible all the time.
To deal with this conflict, employers will develop new policies, new understandings with their workers about when people may enjoy totally private time. It will not be easy. Personal time will be a serious negotiating issue between employers and their key people for several years.
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