Connected to work - checked out of life?

Parents who have a managerial or executive job, and perhaps some lower down the employment ladder, are having to make some hard decisions about their use of communication technology.

In an era of job insecurity, being connected 24/7 via the internet and smartphone may give you an edge on the competition both within and outside your organisation, but where does it leave the inner person, family life, recreation?

People interviewed for a New York Times story express concern about the “speed” at which their employees are living, the constant intrusion of professional life into private life, the “slavery” that comes with the freedom to do your work anywhere.

Some seem to have arrived at a balance of public and private, on the job and off. One senior manager does it by having four (yes, four) devices on the go: “an iPhone and an iPad for family and social life and a BlackBerry and a laptop for work”. She uses the latter two on the train commuting to and from Manhattan. “In the evening she allows time for dinner and family, but then pulls out her laptop…” Skype allows travelling execs to have video chats with their kids at home.

One woman consultant thought better of her habit of leaving her phone on vibrate mode all night:

So now both of her phones are on silent mode at night. She has instituted other changes, as well, to find balance. If she needs quiet time to meditate, she takes it. She also practices yoga, even if only for 20 minutes a day.

“If you need some quiet time,” she says, “it’s up to you to not allow yourself to be bothered for an hour or half an hour.”

Technology has afforded her more freedom, Ms. Dutra says, “but there’s a little bit more slavery as well.”

“If you are available all the time,” she adds, “what does that mean?”

Work pressure is one thing; addiction another. John Lilly, former chief executive of Mozilla, took a new job and made a resolution to “be a little more generative, to think bigger, more original thoughts.”

He said he would turn off Google Reader, Twitter and Facebook. “I’m really excited to have a bit of time to start 2011 to slow down, try to think longer term, and to slow down my clock,” he wrote.

Mr. Lilly, 40, says he tried. But as it turns out, too much of his life was tangled up in e-mail and social networks. “I couldn’t figure out how to disengage from all that stuff,” he says. “More to the point, I didn’t really want to.”

Speaking of being generative, the maximum number of children referred to in the Times article is two. Which is kind of logical in the context.

There is the usual advice from an expert about “too much connectivity”, everyone trying to do too much and not paying enough attention to anything, but while such warnings make good book covers, maybe few people really know what they would do with the extra time.


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