Connected or Leashed

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bigstock-Red-Retractable-Leash-48929054Bill Gates said in 1991, “The internet is becoming the town square for the global village for tomorrow.” 22 years later, over one-third of the world’s population use the internet. He is a visionary. Many of us are connected 24×7 via a powerful “computer” in our pocket. This is in stark contrast to what Ken Olsen, the former president of Digital Equipment Corp., predicted in 1978 that there was no reason for any individual to have a computer at home.

The connectedness has turned us into impatient gobblers of information. While it might be advantageous to communicate instantly with others and have access to information on demand, we have developed addictive behaviours with the smartphone. We:

  • carry it everywhere including sleeping with it
  • check for emails in meetings
  • text friends while driving or crossing roads
  • tweet when something catches our attention
  • take a picture and share it with the world

These are just a few of the routine things we do. Despite my desire to be responsive to urgent needs, I feel leashed. It seems that there is little down time. I feel obliged to provide instant response to requests. At times, I wonder whether this wonderful device is taking over my life.

What expectations do you have for your employees? Have the expectations been communicated? To avoid creating unnecessary stress, try to establish some boundaries on how best to leverage the technology:

  • Reasonable hours for access—outside the designated hours, only emergencies would be handled. It takes discipline on both the sender and receiver to make this work.
  • Minimal use in meetings—it is just good etiquette to focus on the discussion and make contribution. Otherwise, absence makes no difference.
  • Not meant to replace personal interaction—while it is easy to type a brief response and hit the send button, speed does not replace quality and substitute face time. Some might use the tactic to avoid conflicts or get someone off their back; the outcome is delaying the resolution. Nobody wins.
  • Avoid multi-tasking on the road—it is hazardous for the driver and others on the road. Hands free devices are great but they are distractions that have caused accidents and fatalities.

There is a fine line between what must be taken care of right at the moment and things that could wait. Let’s not turn a great tool and technology into the culprit of stress elevation and productivity damper.

© Connie Siu 2013. All rights reserved.

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