A notification goes off. You pick your phone up off your desk. It’s the boss. You get her what she needs next-to-immediately, you look like a superstar, and you go back to work. Everyone’s happy.
Now if the same thing happens at 2 a.m., maybe you’re not so happy. Maybe you’d rather your boss wasn’t interrupting your sleep. Maybe your significant other and kids would rather that as well.
Of course, if you’ve snuck out of the office to take said other and kids to grab a snack or watch a game, and you answer messages so fast and so well that the boss lady doesn’t even know you’ve gone, then you’re right back to being happy.
Working from home
The explosion of internet connected devices has resulted in a rapid rise in entrepreneurs working from their own homes, taking on jobs that don’t necessarily require a physical storefront or office. As of 2012, there were more than 38 million home-based businesses in the United States, with a new one being started every 12 seconds. These home-based businesses brought in over $ 425 billion in revenue.
Globally, one out of every five workers frequently “telecommute” — they work for a company with a physical office, but work from home. VPNs — virtual private networks — allow employees remote access to corporate servers, and teleconferencing tools like Skype and Google Hangouts have made it easier than ever to have almost-face-to-face conversations with coworkers from afar. Thirty-four percent of workers surveyed in a 2012 Ipsos/Reuters poll indicated that they would be interested in working from home if provided the option.
That’s where we exist today. We can be connected and contacted at any time, by anyone who knows how. Our notification lights or lock screens can be lit up at any time of the day or night, by text or tweet, email or IM, phone call or face chat.
At the office, on the go, in the theater, at the table, on the can, in the act, our phones can beep, buzz, and otherwise make their presence known.
That’s the problem with always being online — people expect you to always be online.
Mute switches, bedside modes, and do not disturbs can help, but notification always has the potential to elevate itself to interruption so quickly that they can actually lose value. Once a light is always lit up, once a buzz ceases to stop, it no longer provide any useful information. That’s the problem with always being online — people expect you to always be online.
Luckily, expectation isn’t obligation. We teach people how to treat us. We do it every day, based on every acceptance and every refusal. Our partners in life set their own expectations of us, but it’s up to us to properly calibrate those expectations.
Ultimately, we control that mute switch, bedside mode, do not disturb toggle, and even the power button itself. Expectations be damned, we’re only as available as we allow ourselves to be.
It used to be that you worked an 8 hour day and when you went home you were done.
– Georgia Therapist, Host of ZEN & TECH
Does being always-connected mean you’re always available?