How to Disconnect From ‘Always On’ Work Culture

By Matthew Kitchen | The Wall Street Journal | I have a masochistic need to please bosses, so I’m never more than a few feet from my iPhone (notifications humming at all hours) and I never leave home without a MacBook in tow. Just in case. My manager, who once mentioned pointedly that he has a […]

By Matthew Kitchen | The Wall Street Journal |

I have a masochistic need to please bosses, so I’m never more than a few feet from my iPhone (notifications humming at all hours) and I never leave home without a MacBook in tow. Just in case. My manager, who once mentioned pointedly that he has a “perverse respect for workaholics,” recently emailed me a question at 11:11 p.m. When I responded seven minutes later, he shot back: “You = Always On.”

Whether it was a joke or a compliment, I’ll take it. Different generations might debate which technological advance launched the “always on” work culture that keeps us chained to our devices, and who’s most guilty of perpetuating it. As a millennial, I’d argue that it sprang up in the mid-1980s, when doctors first clipped on pagers and Michael Douglas introduced the world to car phones in “Wall Street,” that cautionary tale about work/life balance (which famously declared that “lunch is for wimps”).

Today always-on is the default work setting for most of us. Ubiquitous smartphones, slim computers and innovative apps make every response a snap—quicker, easier, seemingly less painful. It just takes a second, right? But those rapidly accumulating seconds are just technology’s version of death by 1,000 cuts, expanding the workday’s boundaries until it seamlessly blurs with the rest of civilian life.

According to a 2016 study by the Academy of Management, employees tally an average of 8 hours a week answering work-related emails after leaving the office. Echoing that, a 2015 Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association found that 30% of men and 23% of women regularly bring work home. Similar percentages admitted to working on vacation and to bringing “work materials” along on social outings (we hope they don’t mean accordion folders). All of this, many experts in psychology agree, causes stress, ruins sleep habits and cripples our ability to stay active and engaged during actual office hours.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.