Always On?

Always On?


It’s easy to get sucked into the logic that to be successful you need to be a ‘successaholic’ — that’s a nice way of saying your work behaviour has become self-destructive. But Leslie Perlow, author of  Sleeping with your Smartphone, has other ideas about the always-on mentality in the workplace, and she thinks it’s time for an office intervention.

Surely an intervention is a bit extreme?

Look at it this way, the subjects of Perlow’s survey were available 24/7, half the 1 600 managers and executives worked more than 65 hours a week, and this doesn’t count the 20 hours spent thumbing their smartphones. And even though the guinea pigs of the experiment knew there was something wrong, they were pretty reluctant to budge from their self-inflicted slavery.

Would the world end with one night off?

It took Perlow six months to find a team prepared to take one full night off per week. Despite the angst, the concept of ‘Predictable Time Off ’ (PTO) turned out to be a big hit.

Not only did productivity actually increase as team members were forced to improve co-ordination, but they were planning and prioritising better, delivering better products to their clients, and in the mean time they had more predictability and control of their lives.

Related: The Art of Efficiency: How To Do One Thing at a Time

“I can’t take time off”

Unquestioned beliefs such as, ‘I always have to be available to the client,’ or ‘I can’t take time off’, foster a cycle of reactionary responsiveness, says Perlow. And this is especially true of entrepreneurs, who are truly ‘on’ all the time.

“There’s an underlying expectation that more is better. With smartphones we get sucked into the benefits without realising the costs of always being on and it traps us. The question is: Does it have to be urgent if you thought about it differently?”

The ripple effect results

Markedly higher job satisfaction and greater likelihood of staying with the company long-term; a fundamentally altered way of working with each other — more collaborative, efficient and effective; and client satisfaction rates were mostly higher than non-PTO teams. But most significantly, the average work week dropped from 64,5 to 57,7 hours.

How do you kick-start predictable time off?

  • Implement ’Quiet Time‘ by dividing the day into periods where everyone agrees not to interrupt each other. This includes phone and email.
  • Don’t respond to emails after a certain time. If you respond at 11pm, it reinforces the behaviour of contacting you after hours.
  • Have weekly focus time meetings to discuss how the week went and what could have been done differently. Discuss openly what needs to get done in order for individuals’ goals to be achieved.

Related: (Slideshow) Clear the Mental Clutter: How to Spring Clean Your Mind

Do you find it hard to switch off from work?

Tracy Lee Nicol
Tracy-Lee Nicol is an experienced business writer and magazine editor. She was awarded a Masters degree with distinction from Rhodes university in 2010, and in the time since has honed her business acumen and writing skills profiling some of South Africa's most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs, franchisees and franchisors.Find her on Google+.