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Connectivity Does Not Mean Availability

Posted by on January 4, 2012

Not too long ago your workday started when you arrived at work and ended when you left work.  Then, overtime occurred as new forms of communication were introduced and implemented in the workplace, work started to play a more central role in our lives.  Work was no longer about when you got to work and left work.  It became about when you could be reached.  Now thanks to the web, email, phone, and other technologies we can be reached anywhere, at anytime, and this is a double-edged-sword.

Just because we can always be reached doesn’t mean we should always be reached.  Stan Lee, the famous creator of popular comic book characters such as Spider Man, the Hulk, X-Men, and several others once wrote that “with great power comes great responsibility.”  I know it might sound a bit corny but it doesn’t make it any less true.  Organizations seeking to connect their employees, customers, and partners together must also remember the responsibility that comes with it.  In other words, connectivity doesn’t translate into “I’m available to work anytime you can get a hold of me.”

This is why I found the recent announcement by Volkswagen particularly interesting.  What is the announcement you ask?  Volkswagen announced that they are going to be shutting off Blackberry emails before and after standard work hours.  Volkswagen is striving to achieve a great work-life balance and it understands that employees are people who can’t always be expected to be on call.  I find this move very encouraging especially after a similar announcement made by large consulting firm Atos Origin which pledged to be email free in three years time.  But why is any of this significant?

I think these recent announcements mean a few things:

  • Organizations are starting to realize that a growing problem between connectivity and availability exists and needs to be solved
  • Preserving a work-life balance is crucial for the sanity and well-being of all employees
  • Salaries which based on full-time work are going to become meaningless if employees contracted to work 40 hours a week are now “available” and working 60 hours a week
  • Vendors in the collaboration space are going to need to take this into account and perhaps add features which allow organizations to control how much information is being sent and when

I know how much stress work causes.  Now imagine if you felt as though your work never ended (I’m sure many of you feel like that now).  While it’s encouraging to see more organizations becoming collaborative, we also need to make sure that collaboration and connectivity as it pertains to the workplace remains in the workplace and that we don’t assume connectivity means availability.  This is something that I’m sure we will see more structure around in the coming years as organizations continue to deploy and leverage new technologies and strategies.