Friday, October 22, 2010

Always On (from my past corporate experience):

Just like you, I get a bunch of emails throughout the day and into the evening. On the average, I usually get 150 work emails and a couple of dozen personal ones. Even with 50% of them ‘delete-able’ with no action required, that still leaves me with about 80 emails that require some work. And I’m not high enough in the organization to have some poor soul sift through this *&^% for me. You do the math; 80 emails divided by 10 hours of work time (if I’m lucky) translate into 10/hour responses. Now if you extract, say, 5 hours of meeting times the numbers gets really stupid (forget the math at this point).

It’s not a work/life balance, but rather a work/work balance for such corporate ‘life.’

The night screen fires up when Asia wakes up followed by the normal barrage of EU email several hours later. Then one can kinda witness the States waking up from the East to the West coast as the email wave moves from New York to California. When I was in Hawaii a few weeks ago, it was the worst place to be in terms of email timing. This is the farthest West portion of the global time zone and you’re guaranteed to always be a minimum of 4 hours, at best, behind. I guess it’s better to be in Hawaii and behind in your email than to be in Shinju-Ku Japan at the head of the daily wave! The waves are much prettier in Hawaii!

I usually stay plugged in most of the night, then go to bed, get up and check out the early damage reports. The bad thing is that my manager is in California so I have to stay plugged till around 8 MST. And during my last performance review, I had as an objective “to be always on, 7 x 24 x 52,” which was one of the most stupid things I’ve ever done! Essentially, what I am describing is an endless churn of 24 x 7 x too many days fighting the email wars, fending off spam, trying to keep up with my personal email account and squeezing in some day trading of gold equities in a game with some friends.

“Always On” is a relatively new term that is starting to gain popularity. People like to boast of their “Always On” status. By the same token, vacation time is now being termed “Soft Vacation,” or Soft FTO. This means that the person is vouchering time off on the time clock, yet available to work if needed. I have a real problem with this new definition because it almost guarantees no down time for individuals. I took Soft FTO last Friday and ended up in 4 teleconferences and 2 escalations that leaked far into the evening. Nice day off, eh? I was so stressed by the end of the day, frustrated that I just vouchered a day of FTO then ended up in such a mess. I think I managed to watch a re-run of Seinfield for my Holiday experience. Nice.

I’m not sure where all of this is going to end, but my suspicion is that our next sacrifice on the alter of working harder (& sometimes smarter) is that we’ll start giving up our sleep time. Maybe it will be called Soft Sleep time, where people are free to interrupt your evening rest if they have a question that cannot wait 8 hours. This isn’t entirely ridiculous. Have you ever answered your cell phone whilst conducting your “morning sit down?” You know you have. So in the quest to keep on keeping on and being on always, I see no stopping this monster from it’s continual grasp of our entire life. No one that I see has the guts to really stop it either.

I love living in the age that we do with all of the technological wonders and the ability to communicate with virtually anyone anywhere anytime. But have we gone a bit too far and too nuts? The answer to that question is rhetorical.
Once always on, there is no turning back.

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