Time to Switch Off: Here’s the Problem with Always-On Culture
A toxic lifestyle peddled as the future-forward road to winning at work
The nine-to-six ceases to be but a myth in the modern office. With an app to go with almost every imaginable platform needed for work, we have the smartphone to thank for blurring the lines between regular work hours and personal time. Looking at the upshot, we now have the culture of being “always-on,” the state of being on alert at all times for the moment one is needed, to subscribe to. Those who don’t live up to it risk getting kicked to the curb by competition or fall short of expectation.
Any professional today will tell you that servicing their customers, a key internal workgroup and then, finally, their team, well beyond the confines of the antiquated work hours is the new name of the game. (If they’re up working, messaging, raising concerns, shouldn’t you be up, too?) In living an always-on lifestyle, optimal performance remains to be the grand end goal. Speed, the currency. Real-time, the best-case scenario. Using mobility and accessibility to one’s advantage, the ticket to the end of the line.
Is an always-on culture aiding in work-life balance or destroying it? For a setup that suggests a fully realized employee, it sure comes with a handful of grave payoffs…and they’re now being exposed.
People are spending less time with their families.
With an always-on culture, offline relationships are always first to take the brunt. This accounts for evenings in a typical workweek, weekends and even holidays, where employees are likely to be physically present among family and friends, but mentally preoccupied with concerns better off left in the office.
As it stands, studies have long shown that unmoderated smartphone use is responsible for creating a family divide and floundering personal relationships.
People now get more stressed at home than they do in the office.
In the ‘90s and early 2000s, work-life balance meant refusing to bring home work with them and treating the home base like a sacred work-free refuge. Today, this distinction no longer exists. In addition, a 2017 study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that even while at home, employees were met with stress triggers from thinking about work tasks, being pinged about work-related issues through their smartphones and the like.
People experience fatigue and exhaustion now more than ever.
“If you have the means to address a simple work concern and it’s just right there on your mobile phone, what excuse do you have?”
This is the logic justifying the strains of being always on: it’s convenient, it’s available, but it’s part of the recipe for overwork. Always-on culture takes a toll on a person’s overall wellbeing when he or she is unable to genuinely power down and enjoy this downtime. This leads to more frequent burnouts and, in some extreme cases, resentment for work.
While it may appear that a single person’s desire to raise the “right to disconnect” may not seem like much, it is enough to get a dialogue going in the workplace (with health and well-being being on the line anyway, this becomes a worthwhile matter for any employer). Speak to your immediate supervisor or team lead and bring up the idea of switching off at your next internal pow-wow on better ways of working. Not all moments demanding rapid response will matter, but the hope is that you and your team, can get on the same page and, together, pick the ones that do.
Art Alexandra Lara