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When the digital workplace follows you to the beach

When the digital workplace follows you to the beach

How was your holiday? I ask because it’s been a ghost town on the old email – a thousand grave-like inscriptions of ‘Out of Office’.

But if you’ve been on holiday, or planning to take a break, is it only email you need to close down? What about your phone? Some people dual-wield a work and personal phone, while others prefer to use just one.

Did you remember to disable work email on your phone? Maybe you kept it on so you could see what comes into your inbox, even though your ‘out of office’ auto-reply works hard to protect you.

What about your ESN? Have you got an app for it, like Yammer? Did you remember to log out? If you get messaged you have to decide whether to open the app, respond, and then log out. What’s the etiquette if someone ‘catches’ you online?

The digital workplace makes it harder to shutdown completely. The crossovers between work and personal apps can keep us connected to colleagues and projects even when we’re several time zones away.

The beach digital workplace

It’s your choice – everyone tells you it’s your choice, and yet there are things you don’t want to miss or shouldn’t miss. There are very real and negative ramifications for being unavailable. Not everyone has the perfect job in the perfect culture; it’s unhelpful to suggest that everyone can have an ideal work / life balance.

I was in Cornwall for a fortnight, and the 3G reception was terrible. Good sections of my day were silent, but whenever I got out of a valley or arrived into a town, my phone would ping and beep and buzz. I have responsibilities that cannot be placed on to others. If you work in a team, other people should be able to cover for you, but I bet there’s just the odd thing that nobody can do but you. With proper knowledge management and processes, that shouldn’t happen, but it does if you’re an accountable or skilled person.

Internal communication spills out onto external platforms too these days. Teams use ‘private’ Facebook Groups to swap shifts and keep in touch. LinkedIn notifications often come to our personal email addresses. Twitter exists.

I admire those who truly switch off. But such people are often more senior than me (in every respect). Then again, there’s plenty of evidence that people want a clear divide between work and home.

Perhaps there’s an unhealthy addiction to 365 notifications and spectral presenteeism – being always connected and always available adds to stress, a very real and physical condition.

My best advice is to switch your phone / tablet onto airplane mode for an hour or more. You can choose to reconnect to 3G / WiFi when you want.

The curse of the digital workplace is self-inflicted, but perhaps necessary for some of us during sections of our careers or certain projects.


Wedge Black

I support ClearBox in everything we do online, and I assist clients that are considering redeveloping or replacing their intranet platform. I worked in global and regional organisations as the intranet manager as part of the comms team, before becoming an intranet consultant. I'm the founder of the Intranet Now annual conference. I’ve tweeted about intranets and comms for fifteen years now.

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