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Consumerization and the Work-life Balance: How Do You Manage It?

Experts call it the consumerization of mobile devices, but everyone else just calls it being connected.

Consumerization and the Work-life Balance: How Do You Manage It?

We now have the awesome ability to access trillions and trillions of bytes of data floating around the wires whether at work or home.
That impressive access to information carries with it some serious consequences, however.

The situation: You’re sitting around the table, hotly debating with friends whether a grizzly bear can grow taller than 10 feet. Luckily, you’ve got your Android on hand, and in just a few clicks you’ll soon have the answer.

Unfortunately, as you’re punching "grizzly bear height" into your smartphone’s search bar, you notice the little red email light blinking. While Wikipedia loads and everyone waits for the answer, you click over to your email and realize that it’s an "URGENT" work message. Everyone patiently awaits your illuminating bear-height battle answer, but soon it’s clear that you’re distracted - an awkward silence descends over the table.

Just by casually searching for the answer to a banal debate with your dinner guests, you’ve shattered the infamous work-life balance. That connection, that side effect of the consumerization of IT, has inserted itself in your life. How do you prevent it?

Start simple

Step back and honestly consider the following question: Short of something involving giant flames, are there any issues that can’t be solved if you’re off the grid for just a couple of hours? Again, answer honestly. (Sometimes our want of self-importance can blur that rationale.)

The answer is very likely "no." That means you can drop off for a few hours now and again to play with your kids, have dinner with friends or watch a movie.

Another simple suggestion: turn the phone off - not to silent but off. If it’s only silenced, you will still check your email (you know this). Leave your phone in the car or in your bedroom. Get it out of reach and live a normal life for a while. Many people react to this advice with, "Yeah, wish I could." Again, an honest examination is in order.

After a couple of hours, check in quickly to make sure your office isn’t engulfed in flames and then go back to normal life again.

Buckets of sanity

Many people haven’t taken the time to explore their smartphone’s settings; a couple that may appear trivial can add up to big points in the game of keeping sane.

1) Profiles. Any decent phone will have the tools to set up different application availability, rings and notifications depending on the set profile.

Set up your "home" profile. Turn off the notification lights, make sure you are only viewing your personal emails and set everything else (texts, emails, picture messages), except the ring - the communication method your team would use in a real emergency - to silent.

2) Folders. One can easily bucket their applications (work applications like Dropbox versus home applications like Yelp) and, with most phones, their email inboxes. Separate your professional and personal email inboxes; it’s a much-needed division. And don’t use the "but two inboxes are inefficient" excuse. Like strenuous exercising, it’s a discomfort in the name of (mental) health.

Power to the people

he bottom line is that to maintain that work-life balance, you will ultimately need to focus on your team and staff. How they react during IT disasters or other major events that would draw you away from the dinner table is the bedrock of maintaining that sanity.

For better or for worse, the devices we have are only going to get better at keeping everyone connected; and, more often then not, the people that need to get in touch with you, will find a way. Head them off at the pass. No one would say: "Don’t have business issues." But do have a proper hierarchy for dealing with them. Deciding to send a massive email with a red exclamation point is not a solution - that’s a stopgap. Work with your team so that everyone knows what to do if a server crashes or email security has been breached.

With specified and practiced measures in place, then you don’t have to worry about turning your phone off in the first place. You can check Wikipedia during dinner without worry and find out that, no, grizzly bears rarely break eight feet in height. (However, Kodiaks, a subspecies specific to Alaska with which grizzlies are often confused, grow ten feet tall regularly. Yikes!)

By Caleb Garling