Flexibility or a rigid schedule? You decide.

I missed this story from earlier this month where Sir Cary Cooper professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University said emails were making people less productive.

On reading a bit more (check out the link if you want to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-32622224) it appears that people checking emails at home, at night and on holiday is considered unhealthy and people need to stop doing it. He discusses a wide range of options but believes that the people who are affected need to come up with solutions to suit the organisation.

He thinks one of the good ideas is an alert that warns you how often you have checked your email outside of work hours. Sir Cary said “They could get a message back, for example, saying ‘You have accessed 27 messages today’, alerting them to what they are doing.”

I can see the logic and how work-life balance is something that responsible employers should be considering. But in the modern world it isn’t so easy to say when work starts and stops. With the new technology we have been given a whole range of freedoms and this includes when and where we work. It may suit me to be able to work late in the night and deal with emails if I have had some family commitments during the day. Flexibility is the key.

There is an additional consideration for me which is my compulsion to be on top of the events throughout the day. I want to know through email, and now much more instantly through social media, exactly what is happening. I know that when I don’t have enough battery life, forget my phone or can’t get wi-fi, I get really stressed. So what is wrong with me being able to check emails?

Perhaps Sir Cary needs to first recognise how very different modern working life is and that it can be a huge benefit for people to have some flexibility in their life. I know that being able to work throughout the day and sometimes evening has been helpful to me. And no I don’t want an alert about how many times I have accessed emails as I will probably start to compete with myself and see the number rise further.

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One Response to Flexibility or a rigid schedule? You decide.

  1. pamelawelsh says:

    I’d agree with this to a degree. I love my smartphone, I love that I can work in my jammies if I like. I don’t believe that our brains are wired so that our best ideas come between 9am and 5pm. It’s weird to me. Technology, then, is a fantastic tool to let us work flexibly and sensibly, when we’re at our most creative. I think that’s great. However, I would say that there are some days when I feel like a slave to my emails. Because of the instant-ness of the communication these days, I feel obliged to reply to emails, and at 8pm I’m engaged in a boring email trail that could have waited til morning. It means that it’s hard to switch off and can be more tiring. I burn out quicker when I do this.

    I’m fully aware though, that this is MY problem, not a wider problem with society and/or technology. All it takes is a little willpower not to be drawn in to horrendously lengthy and irrelevant email conversations. I wish I was good enough to take my own advice!


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