We all need to tune in, turn off and chill out
Ah, the holidays. How good is it to relax on the couch to watch the cricket and – hang on, my phone’s beeping.
Gee, I’d better respond to some of those work emails.
And there are notifications on Twitter. Someone’s tagged a photo on Facebook. Looks like there’s a job offer via LinkedIn. And I should check out who’s on Google+ while I’m at it.
Seriously, do we ever turn off anymore?
Whatever happened to downtime? And what’s it doing to our health? We’re becoming a nation of addicts: Work is the new heroin.
At Christmas lunch, we jostle for the best angle to take a picture of the spread, before sending it via social media to our ‘contacts’ around the world. Describing the event is more important than experiencing it. It becomes part of the construct of your ‘brand’.
Life is a blur of snatched conversations, abrupt text messages and perpetual phone hockey. We listen half-heartedly to our loved ones’ concerns with an ear out for the next interruption.
That beep or red light indicates you’re in demand. Like an insecure lover, we look surreptitiously to see if our feelings are requited.
Recent research by an HR software company found two-thirds of Australians continue to work while on holidays.
Guilty as charged, Your Honour.
I felt like I’d lost a limb when I couldn’t get a phone signal on a remote island for our 10th wedding anniversary. What if someone needed me urgently?
Hubby’s calm response put me in my place: “What’s more important than your wedding anniversary?”
In the quest for the holy grail of work/life balance we’ve sold our souls to the devil, otherwise known as Apple. Technology is blurring the line between work and home like never before.
If you hacked into the computers of most Australians, you’d find work contacts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ outnumber friends.
“We’re a nation of workaholics,” according to David Page, managing director of software company NorthgateArinso.
“Australia has a reputation for putting a priority on work/life balance, and we may be losing that with the uncontrolled introduction of technology into the workplace.”
Sure, working from home is a boon to those with small children, and baby boomers caring for elderly parents.
No wonder the ‘sandwich generation’ has embraced it.
I can write an 850 word column for the newspaper while the kids play happily in the background. Meanwhile, Skype and videoconferencing mean we don’t have to travel so much for work.
But I can’t help but think life was easier when technology was distinct.
In the late 80s there was work technology like mainframes, terminals and disk drives the size of refrigerators; and lifestyle technology like TV, radio, Nintendo, and home phones the size of large dumbbells.
Now, the tools are largely the same. Soon we’ll be able to watch TV and check our emails on the same screen.
Er, come to think of it, you can do that now. Beam me up, Scotty.
The catch is, it doesn’t make us any better at our jobs.
A study by a university in Rotterdam published in the Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace found, “It is likely that the smartphone with its always-on culture disturbs the important process of recovery and may even lead to a decrease in productivity and performance levels in the long run”.
Much of the addiction is driven by insecurity, both job and personal.
One friend was pleased she’d be the envy of her colleagues when she received a new iPhone 4S through work – only to realise she’d be on call 24/7.
“There’s a bit of believing we’re all indispensible, and we like to feel we’re an important part of the group,” David Page says.
According to the director of the Centre for Work + Life Professor Barbara Pocock, ‘While job insecurity is part of this, there is also an addictive element to the long hours”.
We need to feel needed.
And if we aren’t getting a big enough burst of serotonin from sugar or sex, we’ll search for it elsewhere.
“I’m sooooo busy,” we lament, in a race to see who can have the first breakdown.
One-in-five Australians spends more than 48 hours a week working, yet we’re increasingly unhappy. And we’re passing it on to the next generation.
Remember the ad where Dad asks his son to get a beer from the fridge?
We’re buying our kids smartphones before they reach puberty: A chip off the ol’ block.
So before you go to that weekend barbie remember to pack the esky, the snags and the beers, and leave the mobile at home. All work and no play is making our national character a dull boy (or girl, for that matter).
It’s time to bring back the motto “No worries” before it’s too late. Maybe one day we will see the return of the great Australian weekend.
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