5. 24/7 availability

As the home/work divide has become blurred, there could well be an expectation that employees do not “switch off and turn off”. Other than pagers, this was only possible from the early 1980’s when Psion created the first organiser and PDA, and then the mid 90’s when Microsoft created an email system that could be used via the Internet.

Since then much changed in attitudes to work life balance, and the ability to access information anytime, anywhere has changed the way many conscientious employees view the way they work.

From inauspicious beginnings (a tentative log on to email from home to see who else was using it) many of us found it was a seamless transition to accessing one’s smartphone for urgent work messages anywhere, on holiday, in leisure time. From that point, it being possible to becoming an expectation was a logical development.

Cary Cooper, Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University said in his blog (2011) that ‘sometimes such a proliferation of available information can make it difficult to pick out what’s most important’, and there are a number of articles showing how challenging this can be for some individuals.  Examples of the problems encountered in maintaining focus proliferate, and studies on the subject abound.

In August 2006 Gayle Porter and Nada Kakabadse noted that ‘employers might even be liable for encouraging addiction amongst their staff’, (Porter, Kakabadse, 2006) which is no secret to most of us. It’s certainly a powerful message to relay to employers – it says “look how hard I work”  (and I can prove it)…

Unfortunately access to the amount of information available to us may mean that we never, ever feel we are doing things well enough, and become more vulnerable to environmental conditions that encourage us to and strive constantly for better and more information. How many report writers look for one last nugget of information, speech writers one more quote, or students’ one more impressive reference, making it difficult to draw a halt on research?

Acknowledgement: Computer situated in a toilet © PYMCA.
Acknowledgement: Computer situated in a toilet © PYMCA.