It seems that these days we are all living with the reality of always being on and available.
We are subject to daily waves of email, both solicited and spam. Our social feeds are constantly prodding us to keep up, to like or comment. Our efforts to read and search are bombarded with pop-ups to buy, and we are constantly tracked and re-marketed. Our work and private time is blurred. It is normal for people to spend meeting times distracted by emails. Wherever you look – in the street, in cars, in restaurants, at the beach, at home – people are heads-down buried in their devices.
In a working context an assumption has been evolving that we are always available, always ready to respond and always on.
We quizzed the New Zealand Marketer of the Year finalists about how they deal with this Always On lifestyle and how it impacts on their working life. Here’s what they had to say:
All of them are ‘Usually On’ for work and half feel they are ‘Always On’.
“I drop my kids to school in the morning which allows me to connect with their school friends, teachers, other parents. That means I'm not at my desk until 9ish. I then work until 5.30/6.00 usually without a lunch break and come home to see the kids before they go to bed. As a result I usually catch up on my work at night, often working til 11 or 12. I try as much as possible not to work weekends but usually have to do a bit on Sunday night.”
Three-quarters of them say there is significant pressure from their employer to be Always On for work.
Apart from a couple of exceptions, most say that they manage to achieve a satisfactory work:life balance.
“In order to manage my work life balance and ensure that I switch off over the weekends or after work hours, I choose relaxing options such as the gym or reading to not only improve my work performance Monday - Friday but to take some 'me time' and disconnect from work.”
But work:life balance implies the ability to control your work schedule, and that is not always possible. Sometimes there are sacrifices made in order to cope.
“No matter your personal opinion about work:life balance, the pressure of being Always On and available to work can exceed your choice about when you can switch off.”
Most said that being Always On did impact to a degree on their ability to build professional relationships, develop professional skills, plan their career and stay on top of the day-to-day.
In term of private lives, being Always On for work means less time for the hobbies and personal pleasures, as well as spending time with friends.
Work ‘busyness’ is a common and hot topic of conversation for our Top Marketers with colleagues at work, and to a lesser degree with their friends. But they are far less likely to raise the issue of work busyness at home.
Always On means working outside work hours. All the Top Marketers are available weekends, and 80% deal with email, calls and texts before and after work hours.
The average number of work-related contacts they received each work day is 67, including 54 emails (one received 90 a day), 6 phone calls, 4 texts and 3 other messages.
“I wish email had never been invented. People expect that once they've hit sent that you've received, understood and are actioning something. Or worse still you've been copied so everyone is in agreement. I used to be able to keep a clear inbox now I've got 3,827 emails sitting in my inbox and 40 folders! Managing that takes up way too much of my day.”
There is no doubt that most professionals these days are under pressure to be ‘Always On’. The question is how we deal with it. Do we avoid it? Do we struggle to cope? Do we let our physical and mental health suffer? Or do we rise above it and thrive?
New Zealand’s Top Marketers, by and large, seem to have found the right balance required to perform at work and be happy in their personal lives.
“In my life, I choose to work after hours. I know that this is not an expectation of my role but a reflection of my character and working ethic."
As they say, pressure makes diamonds.
10 TOP TIPS FOR MANAGING WORK: Life Balance According to Our Top Marketers
Prioritise your workload
Block time out for family and friends
Integrate exercise into your daily routine
Turn your phone onto silent when you're away from the office
Make a point of dropping the kids off at school
Switch off at weekends
Read every day
Learn to say 'no'
Make time for hobbies and interests
Lew Bentley is Energi's head of planning and insights
This story is part of a content partnership with Energi.