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I do not have any nonworking hours.
There, I said it. There are just no hours in my day that are totally off-limits to working either for my day job or for the numerous other things I do.
I’m not complaining. I love what I do. I’m just stating the obvious for a working mother of three. So yes, I’ve written emails at 3 a.m. although I don’t expect someone to respond immediately. (I’m often surprised when they do.)
Knowing what I know about my work life, I was intrigued by a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, which found that 21 percent of organizations have a formal policy that limits employees’ use of wireless devices such as cell-phones and tablets during nonworking hours for work purposes. Twenty-six percent have informal policies limiting their use.
I get why companies are concerned about employees maintaining a balance between work and home life. Overworked and stressed staff can be a problem. But sometimes I work the hours when it’s reasonable for one to be asleep so that I can attend a function at my kid’s school the afternoon or evening before. Or I need to carve out daytime hours to help my husband when he takes his 83-year-old father to a doctor’s appointment.
There are two dynamics at play when it comes to how much our work life bleeds into our personal time. There are people like me who have employment situations that allow them to choose to work long, unusual hours for personal reasons.
And then there are employees who work after hours because that’s the office norm. It’s the culture that has been created by their employer. They know they had better quickly respond to a supervisor’s email even in non-emergency work situations. They know they have to stay connected to stay employed or if they want to move up the corporate ladder.
I had a friend who had taken off to attend a church-related women’s retreat. She had purposely put in extra hours to make sure nothing was left undone during her absence. But her boss kept emailing her about a report. She missed most of the retreat emailing information.Of the organizations that do not have a formal or informal policy about wireless communication during nonworking hours, the majority leave it up to their employees to set their own limits. That’s smart.
People have personal lives, and it may become necessary to do things after the formal working hours. In these cases, when possible, responsible employees should be allowed to work off hours to get the job done. On the flip side, it’s important to strive for balance so that you aren’t handcuffed to your workplace communication device or always writing emails at 3 in the morning.
The ideal situation is for both employers and employees to remain flexible.
Technology makes it hard to separate our work and private lives.