(Editor’s Note: All of us in the TalentCulture community mourn the loss of our dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. Her message and her life are a lesson for us all. We will forever fondly remember her humor, warmth and wisdom.)
I had this sinking feeling of work life chaos while getting a facial this weekend. My phone was on “ring mode” instead of on “silent.” Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata in C rang once, twice and finally a third time. My hands slathered in lotion and nuzzled in heated mits, I had to wait a bit before checking my phone. When I did, it was evident that the tv newsroom – where I spend a good portion of my week, was calling me on my day off.
But no matter the profession, many of us get those urgent (or no so urgent calls) looking for an instant response. And when we respond, giving into “instant gratification”, we play into that idea of “perceived availability” which I wrote about in a recent post: Taking Work Life Balance by the Horns.
Whether Sleet, Snow, Day or Night
I used to answer these calls no matter the time of day or night out of concern that breaking news might require me to drop everything, and run into work. (Like the time when a Chinese tanker ran aground filled with refugees off the south coast of Long Island) But that’s changed.
After putting some personal guidelines into place and openly communicating with colleagues who might need to reach me in an emergency, I created a system to navigate those sudden calls and respond to them in a timely and appropriate manner. Having a plan or system is a life saver if you frequently get such calls.
Technological interruptions on your off-time from work can really put a dent into your downtime. And according to a new survey published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, they could actually be bad for your health. University of Toronto researchers asked a group of American workers “how often they were contacted outside the workplace by phone, e-mail, or text about work-related matters by clients, managers, and supervisors.”
The study found that women, more so than men, reported higher levels of psychological distress from work-related contact outside of normal working hours. Apparently women were more distressed because they would feel guilty about dealing with work issues at home. Seems that men and women have different expectations when it comes to setting boundaries around their work and family lives.
No matter your gender, there are many variables to consider when handling those at-home interruptions from the office. The type of job you have, will determine whether those sudden interruptions are warranted. And if they are, the best way to handle them.
5 keys to staying balanced when that calls comes in from work
- Assess your job and responsibilities: If you’re a manager, your responsibilities might differ vastly from the workers in your company. Does your position require you be available on your off-time? If so, only you know what is within reason as far as being contacted. Decide what is appropriate for you while adhering to your job guidelines.
- Determine the “crisis mode” level: Things go wrong sometimes. The trick is to diffuse the situation in an optimal amount of time with the least amount of collateral damage. That’s why you should set up a “rising scale of tension.” When plans go awry a lot of finger pointing goes on. What is the tipping point where your assistance is needed? Determine what events warrant communication or a phone call on off-time hours.
- Communicate with your employees or employer: If you determine that you need to be available during off-hours, let your co-workers or employees know when it’s ok to reach out on a weekend. You might be ok with being contacted on Saturdays 9-5 but not on Sundays for example. Ultimately it’s up to you to gently inform those with whom you work or do business with, what your boundaries are.
- Set your answering boundaries: Instead of answering every call that comes in, along with every e-mail, decide what works for you. You might prefer to pickup right away if you know it’s a client. In my case of being a news reporter – if I know the newsroom is calling – I will be sure to listen to the message immediately. The nature of the message determines my response.
- Checks and balances system: There are certain people at work who know how to get a hold of me in the case of an emergency. I also have a list of people who can fill-in for me at the last minute if need be. Determine which people will be able to pitch hit for you if you cannot respond to work in the appropriate manner or time frame.
What are your tips for dealing with the technological interruptions at home – from the workplace?