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The Green Sheet Online Edition

April 25, 2011 • Issue 11:04:02

Smart phones, dumb habits

By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.

If time-saving technologies have produced a surplus, how are we investing the hours we have gained? Have these technologies helped us achieve a work-life balance, or are we having more difficulty disengaging from work in an always-on, always-connected world? Are we in control or have our smart phones, tablets and assorted PDAs become the tail wagging the dog?

Let's consider how technology is impacting our lives and professions, forever changing the way we interact and accept payments at the POS.

Smart phones offer merchants and consumers an array of modern conveniences, including the ability to make and receive payments, check email, set calendar reminders, navigate with global positioning system technology, use text and video conferencing and interact on social media.

We can instantly download games, magazines and bestsellers onto tablets and e-readers. But have we programmed some nondigital activities into this mix? Just as some people unplug for one night a week of family time and others dare to leave their coverage area to go climb a mountain, there are compelling advantages to taking time away from electronics to revisit the natural world.

Take time to recharge

Ironically, the electronic assistants that absorb so much of our time also measure it with digital clocks. How do we maintain the upper hand when interacting with devices that continue to send us email long after we've left our physical workplaces?

Can we turn them off and be totally present while driving, eating, attending meetings, watching movies, and spending time with our friends and families? Do we recharge ourselves as effectively as we recharge the batteries of our assorted robotic friends?

Leave 24/7 to your help desk

Studies have shown that failure to occasionally unplug and take a break can adversely affect workers' health and productivity. This is especially true for sales professionals, who tend to equate missed calls with potential loss of sales or accounts. We're so afraid of losing connection with our customers that some of us are available to our customers 24/7, working 90 hours a week during offseason and up to 120 hours during peak times, sacrificing sleeping, eating and entertaining. Is any job worth that?

Extreme overtime can wreak havoc on the physical and mental health of workers who go for extended periods without the rest, nutrition or mental breaks necessary to bring a renewed and fresh perspective to their jobs. This type of lifestyle may work for awhile, but ultimately it's just not sustainable. Career veterans perform at an evenly measured pace that's more suited for a marathon than a 60-yard dash.

Work smart, not hard

In her international bestseller, Ten Thoughts about Time, Swedish philosopher Bodil Jönsson describes extreme work habits as so last century. She wrote, "One system we must replace as soon as possible is the one we have inherited from industrialization. Its central notion was that work was crucial, and what you did when you were working mattered, too.

Being employed was synonymous with being needed. Leisure time was when you did things like entertain yourself or look after your private life, including children and older relatives, and chores such as cooking, cleaning and laundry. The post-industrial society must get rid of this work-based outlook."

Here are six warning signs that you may be over-connected:

  1. Work overload: If there's too much work on your plate and you don't prioritize tasks, you may find yourself working constantly to keep pace with your workload. Work will continue to pile up, and you'll keep working and responding to all those incoming emails. See if you can delegate some tasks or ask for assistance.

  2. Failure to delegate: If you're taking on more than your fair share of work, you're not a hero. Delegate tasks, bring the work overload to the attention of your management, or if you can't do either, make the tough decision on what to drop.

  3. Absence of clear-cut goals: Before you start replying to an email or diving into that pile of papers on your desk, think about what matters most. Try to organize tasks in order of importance, and make it easy for yourself and everyone on your team to prioritize their tasks.

  4. Absence of work life balance: Not taking a much-needed break can put you at risk for potential health issues and impaired judgment. Exhausted people don't make good decisions. You may perform poorly at work or drive erratically. Your relationships may also suffer.

  5. Disconnected from core values: Overwork is not aligned with most individuals' and companies' core values. Most of us place importance on work-life balance, and we perform best when we have clear separation between our lives and our jobs. Even when we love our jobs, we have to learn how to let go.

  6. Loss of personal identity: Workers are increasingly basing their identities on the jobs and work they perform. The workplace has replaced the social outlets of many modern workers, who used to congregate in neighborhood pubs or bowling alleys and enjoy activities organized by churches and civic groups. Now these same employees are finding comfort in working late and staying connected in-person and online with their extended family of coworkers.

Let go of extreme habits

Clearly, our recent global recession, advances in technology, and a culture of fear and uncertainty have contributed to a worldwide epidemic of extreme work habits and compulsive connectivity. While economic recovery has been uneven and slower to reach some areas, we can all do our share in building a better future, and we can start by intelligently managing our electronic devices.

Let's be smarter than our smart phones, leave the 24/7 to our Help Desks and occasionally take time to unplug. It's the quality, not quantity, of our interactions that will continue to drive innovation. What matters most is not how much time we save; it's how we choose to spend it. The Green Sheet, Inc.

Dale S. Laszig is Senior Vice President of Sales in the United States for Castles Technology Co. Ltd., a manufacturer and global provider of smart card, contactless and POS solutions. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or dale_laszig@castech.com.tw.

Notice to readers: These are archived articles. Contact names or information may be out of date. We regret any inconvenience.

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