Being able to connect with colleagues and clients at a moment’s notice any time, day or night, is both a blessing and a curse. Mobile connectivity — through laptops, smartphones and tablet computers — allows you to troubleshoot problems and stay in contact while you’re away from the office, but it can also feel like a tether to work, never truly allowing you to unplug and unwind while you’re off the clock.
In a recent study from Virgin Media Business of the United Kingdom’s 2,000 directors, more than half (54 percent) think constant connectivity on the go would shorten their workday, but they also believe it would have a negative impact on their work-life balance.
Highlights of the Survey
- By the end of 2012, 70 percent of the UK is expected to have a mobile device reliant on mobile connectivity
- Employees believe increased mobile coverage would provide secure work email access (79 percent) and manage emergencies more efficiently (46 percent) but don’t think it would increase the prevalence of working from home (16 percent)
- 10 percent believe working fewer hours would improve their work-life balance
“As the lines between our work and personal devices blur, the temptation is to never switch off and constantly check emails or work on a document,” said Tony Grace, COO of Virgin Media Business.
“Because of this 24 hour demand for data on the move, we’ve seen the amount of data consumed on our network jump to 765 billion individual bits of data being transferred every second… Even if we’re shortening our working days by working on the move, it’s actually creating a false economy if we’re constantly fretting over our smartphone throughout the day and night. The key is getting the balance right and enjoying the reassurance that if we do need to read an important email or deal with an emergency on the move, then we can.”
Tips for Work-Life Balance & Mobile Connectivity
1. Set “unplugged” hours.
Unless you work in an industry where you absolutely need to be available 24/7, you can probably design a schedule that is realistic without being unsustainable. Yes, sometimes you will need to take that frantic call at home to solve a work problem, but you don’t want it to become the norm. Let your employees and colleagues know in general when you will be unavailable by email and phone and what kind of situations constitute as emergencies.
2. Automate when possible.
Use advanced technology to your advantage and set up automated systems to make your life easier. From scheduling business social media posts in advance over the weekend to filtering emails by level of importance, you can customize tech tools to improve your work-life balance.
3. Avoid mindless monitoring.
Mobile connectivity is useful when it has a specific purpose; it is inefficient when it becomes obsessive or addictive. Be aware of how you use your mobile device away from the office. Do you refresh your inbox every 10 minutes for no particular reason? Do you find yourself finding excuses to use your smartphone or tablet because you’re bored or restless? Use technology mindfully and scale back on usage that is not productive or contributes to bad habits.
How much do you think mobile connectivity helps or harms your personal effectiveness? What impact does it have on your work-life balance?