'Off' is the new 'On' . . .
Although I applaud the French government initiative to control out of hours emails (the Right to Disconnect); I really think that ultimately it is our own responsibility to govern our own work life balance and to set parameters that are both realistic and workable depending on our individual professional and personal lives.
I began my career as a PR account executive in Dublin in the late 80's working for top agencies Murrays and Setanta, before moving to Kerry Group - and then setting up my own business - Upfront PR. My work life then was challenging, demanding and rewarding. I worked long hours - and I loved it. However, once I got home in the evening (or the early hours of the morning!), my work life was done and my personal life begun. No one had a mobile phone (fax me baby!) and it was highly unusual, unless in an emergency, to call employees on their home phone. So after work, you had your other life - sport, clubs, dates and nights out. 8 hours work, 8 hours play and 8 hours sleep . . . at least in theory.
Then came the mobile phone and SMS. I still remember getting a text late one night in relation to a job the following day. It was nothing that couldn’t have been discussed or resolved at the office in the morning, but receiving it at 11pm at night, added an unwarranted urgency and I went to bed feeling anxious and un-prepared for the day.
Then came emails and laptops. So everything you didn’t get done during the day, you now did after dinner - answering emails long into the night. Waking up tired and agitated the following morning.
Then came the Smart Phone - and we all became connected (addicted!) blurring the lines between work and life and reality. It is now completely acceptable to call someone at 10pm at night with a work related query or send them an email or tweet / snapchat / etc … Until very recently I did it myself - often texting colleagues late at night or sending them ‘my thoughts’ on concepts or new ideas, and expecting a response!
Now, don’t get me wrong, if we are working on an event, managing a launch, working in different time zones, or any other project that requires connectively with the team 24 hours a day - I am there! No problem. However, frequently this isn’t the case and it’s just bad time management, or a few glasses of Bordeaux, inspiring an email / text - that is neither time sensitive or urgent.
As much as possible, I believe in personal self regulation - i.e. I don’t expect Government to restrict what I eat, drink, see, read (within reason!). This also applies to my work life. So recently I have become very 1989, and unless I am on call for an event / PR project, I turn my work phone off at 7pm and don’t check my emails. (I do have a ‘crisis’ contact number for clients and do still look at social media feeds). Happily to date, I have discovered that when I turn on my phone the following morning, that everything can be resolved with refreshed and clear headed thinking as we begin another day. Self governing my right to disconnect, means that I am more productive and my life is more balanced. Instead of scrolling through emails or obsessing over some late night text, I now read books, walk my dogs, bake cakes, meet my friends in person and I am generally much more fulfilled. I now work and live.
The right to disconnect. . . it is up to you.