The 24/7 Culture
9-5: A thing of the past?
Whatever happened to the 9-5 work day? Is it acceptable to be available 24/7 because you have a cell phone or an email address? With the technological revolution and globalization, industries have become competitive expecting more from the workforce, but officially the eight-hour-day still legally exists. However, despite this, one is expected to do more than the hours actually paid for. My colleagues would stare at me as I got up to leave work on time or when I took my unpaid lunch hour. I did nothing wrong, but it seems others expect others to work for the sake of work
With freelancing, contracting and home businesses becoming the norm, it becomes more difficult to define working hours and when the working day ends. Should clients or agencies text and call at all hours? It has become acceptable for those who vie for work and it is often the case of who responds first. In some ways, it is not the best person for the job, but the one who is glued to their phone and doesn’t mind using it whatever time of day or wherever they are. People have become slaves to technology, relying on it and expecting responses instantaneously.
Often freelancers have to respond to a pitch instantly or certain industries have time sensitive matters to deal with like realtors or lawyers. Is it reasonable for clients or employers to expect people to answer their calls or respond to their emails outside of normal working hours? With headsets, hands free and voice activated options, we seem to have to be available and ready, however, this results in more traffic accidents, less attention to detail and disrupted personal interactions. The wise find a balance and boundaries.
Is the 24/7 culture good or bad?
Choice to call, text, email, or all at once?
The Do's and Don'ts
As the world comes to grips with new and evolving social media and international etiquette, there are several rules that should be adhered to that no one will tell you or will explain to you that can save you time and help build better relationships:
- Do not call after office hours, unless it is an emergency. Leave a voicemail if it is to confirm something and follow up the next day. Having a cell phone does not mean that person is available all hours unless they have specified they are on call or available. I had an employee who called me at 9.30 p.m., who wanted to discuss her expenses and I told her to call back during the working hours as it was not only inappropriate, not an emergency and nor do I carry the company spreadsheets around with me!
- The best time to email, is after 10 a.m., when someone has filtered and cleared their inbox from the night before. Naturally a Monday morning or a Friday afternoon is a bad time to call or email as people are catching up on deadlines or in meetings. Although you may think it is fine to email late at night or early in the morning, don’t forget many people have emails on their phones and receiving them at unsociable hours can create an unfavorable impression.
- To text or not? Texting is convenient to confirm messages or meetings as it allows the receiver to read them when it is convenient, but limit the message and keep it direct and to the point. If you need to cancel during unsociable hours, text and follow up with a call as soon as the working day begins.
- Leaving messages, only if necessary or returning a call. There is nothing worse than arriving to a voicemail box of vague messages or ones that fill up your box not allowing important messages to be left. Not only does it leave a bad impression, but shows you have little respect for the client.
Can you switch off?
How do you feel if you can't get email or have no phone reception
Think before you press send
The evolution of shift work has several advantages, but has disadvantages too. It allows people to work part-time to fit around the family or school and companies to extend their working hours. On the other hand, companies put pressure on employees to work on weekends and public holidays and many do in fear of losing their jobs.
The concept of work is no longer that of a 40-hour-week, but one until the job is done. Is it normal to expect an employee to accept calls 24/7, 365 days a year? Unfortunately, people conform to these changes, but the consequence is many burn out.
Use the off button
Learning to switch off your phone or not reading your emails once the day has ended can be difficult and many try to adapt some self-control not to constantly check.
We shouldn’t feel guilty, but society makes us feel that we should because others are willing to make this a part of their life. The new generation has grown up used to checking their emails, messages and social media constantly as second nature. Whether that is healthy or not remains debatable. A majority does not make it right or acceptable, so a compromise is to check once every few hours, that is unless you are the boss. Then 24/7 maybe necessary in the early days to become successful, but that’s a choice you make and not an employer.
These unspoken rules also apply to friends and family; unless it is an emergency don’t call before 9 a.m. as a general rule and not after 10 p.m. Outside of these hours, text first to check, the same goes for social media, having a Facebook account doesn’t mean you are obliged to check it every hour, every day. Stay in control and don’t let technology dictate your life, because batteries die, phone reception can go down and power cuts exist! Sometimes the world just has to wait!
© 2014 S T Alvyn