Whether it was a joke or a compliment, I’ll take it. Different generations might debate which technological advance launched the “always on” work culture that keeps us chained to our devices, and who’s most guilty of perpetuating it. As a millennial, I’d argue that it sprang up in the mid-1980s, when doctors first clipped on pagers and Michael Douglas introduced the world to car phones in “Wall Street,” that cautionary tale about work/life balance (which famously declared that “lunch is for wimps”).
Today always-on is the default work setting for most of us. Ubiquitous smartphones, slim computers and innovative apps make every response a snap—quicker, easier, seemingly less painful. It just takes a second, right? But those rapidly accumulating seconds are just technology’s version of death by 1,000 cuts, expanding the workday’s boundaries until it seamlessly blurs with the rest of civilian life.
According to a 2016 study by the Academy of Management, employees tally an average of 8 hours a week answering work-related emails after leaving the office. Echoing that, a 2015 Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association found that 30% of men and 23% of women regularly bring work home. Similar percentages admitted to working on vacation and to bringing “work materials” along on social outings (we hope they don’t mean accordion folders). All of this, many experts in psychology agree, causes stress, ruins sleep habits and cripples our ability to stay active and engaged during actual office hours.
In 2017, France instituted a new labor law that supports a new frontier in human rights, the “Right to Disconnect.” Backed by unions advocating that employees disengage from electronic work communications once free of the office, the law stems from a 2004 French Supreme Court ruling affirming that an employee who is unreachable by cell outside of work can’t be dinged for misconduct. SORRY, WE’RE CLOSED Actively [More]