Is is acceptable to contact your family and friends during work hours? Should workplaces create a modern work environment were personal and professional life can coexist. Ted speaker Stefana Broadbent seems to think that this is where society is headed in her Ted talk
“How the internet enables intimacy.”
I agree with parts of Stefana’s talk. The internet is great for intimacy. It can break the barriers of location and help strengthen the bonds of family and friends who are separated by oceans. Distance is no longer an issue in maintaining emotional connections.
My grandmother died when I was around ten years old. She lived overseas and we only ever met in person when I was three. I don’t really remember ever actually remember seeing her in flesh. We used to write aerograms to each other, but it would take weeks for the letters to arrive.
If video chatting had existed back them that whole experience would have been dramatically different for me. I would have been blessed with vivid memories of conversation and facial expressions that come with sharing stories.
I treasure my grandma’s letters, it’s a connection to my past, but I do believe that had email, instant messaging, Facebook and Skype been around back them that connection might have been a lot more vivid. Just one of those platforms would have made the experience significantly different.
Stefana says that there is a hidden tension between people and institutions such as workplaces and school. Bans from contact with the outside world during work and school hours is being met with employees and students discreetly (or not so discreetly) sneaking out text messages and Facebook status updates.
Stefana says that we should have the right to self-determine where our attention goes. Simply put, Stefana thinks it’s okay for students and employees to contact their family and friends during work and school hours as what is actually happening is intimacy is being deepened between loved ones.
Is this a loosing battle?
My initial reaction to this viewpoint was immediate opposition. If an employee is in a workplace being paid to exchange their time for productive work, then I don’t believe that time should be utilised for personal use. Sure, intimacy might be boosted with people on the other end of that Facebook chat or phone call, but what about the people around you.
However, after my initial ‘Are you kidding me moment” I started to think that whether or not we like it, people are always going to be drawn to that cell phone like a moth to a lamp and will be sneaking texts and emails to friends during work hours regardless of work policies.
The lines between professional and personal life is being blurred by this inclusive and intrusive technology. Knowing this, should outside communication become accepted as part of a new work culture or will this lead to a disruptive workplace and lessen productivity?
Stefana brought up some statistics that was not at all surprising and pretty much proved that the two world are beyond mingling and already cohabiting.
- 50% of email access at work is private correspondence.
- The peak time to check and reply to private email is at 11am
- 75% of people admit to having private conversations from their mobile phone at work.
Stefana also mentioned some reports that troubled her such as
- A school fined students $15 for using their phone during school
- Immediate dismissal of bus drivers spotted with a phone in their hand
- Companies decided to block Im and Facebook from work computers
I don’t necessarily have a problem with any of those points. Is it such a bad thing to teach kids discipline and not instant gratification? In a school environment is it such a bad thing to actually connect with the people around you?
So a company decides that they would rather not have their employees fall down a rabbit hole of shared YouTube videos on Facebook – does this make them the bad guys?
As for the bus drivers being dismissed for phone use? Stefana doesn’t really make it clear if she is referring to a moving bus, but I’m going to guess no. If the driver is between routes and on a break I see no problem with phone use in that case.
I think we are spiralling down this path of totally disconnect to anyone in our physical space! I recently wrote a post about anti-social phone tricks and how in order to really get someone’s attention who is standing right beside you, you need to leave the room and give them a call.
I am not writing this as an internet scrooge. Stefana shared stories where a brief personal communication interruption would be valuable, such as the baker who is at work at 4am but sneaks away at 8am to tell his wife good-morning. I just think that the boundaries of personal and professional life can’t be too mixed and we could ultimately end up sacrificing a lot more.
Is there a way that professional and personal lives can co-exist together? Is it conceivable that one day workplaces will need to incorporate social media breaks to keep staff happy and productive?
I would really love to know what you think about this? Is it fair to expect workplaces to be accommodating to their staff’s personally communications during work hours or it is a step too far? Please share you thoughts in the comment box below!