It’s almost 1:00 AM, and you suddenly get a message from a potential new client in your FB group saying, “Hey! I have been following you for a while, I would love to chat to you in the morning about working with you.” While the timing of message will annoy you, it’s something you have to respond to, because after all, it’s a potential new customer.
The ‘always on’ culture refers to the practice of staying online that renders you available to other people. More often than not, it’s your professional contacts, clients or potential clients who’d want to take advantage of it. While the culture ensures greater productivity from some, for most, it’s a curse, as it has the potential to take our limited but valuable time away from our businesses, and the time we spend with our families. In the worst, it leads to burnout.
Negatives of the ‘always on’ culture
Stress: You’re done with your day’s work, but all of a sudden, you get a message at means you take on another task. In such a situation, your emotional response would be one of stress, and if you know what stress does to you physically and mentally, you wouldn’t want it.
The ‘always on’ culture, can lead to your stress levels skyrocketing. The worst part is that if you refuse to take on the extra work, you feel guilty because you are letting down a client. Unchecked stress can lead to chronic issues that significantly increase the risks associated with heart disease, stroke, and mental health issues.
Being taken for granted: What price tag does your devotion to your business and clients come with? Are you making yourself too available to our clients, if you are they will start taking you for granted.
As business owners we rarely say ‘No,’ to our clients, this leaves us open to being taken advantage of. Whilst such behaviour on the surface level appears to support our business growth, it comes at a BIG cost to our personal lives.
Decreased alone time: Each and every one of us needs time for ourselves and to be with our families. However, the ‘always on’ culture tends to ignore one’s family and personal needs. As more work piles up, we spend more and more time in our business, may that be a sneaky email whilst watching your children play sport or whilst your friend is at the bar ordering you a drink. If you leave this go unchecked you will start to resent your business and friendship may become pushed.
Being overworked and stressed out can have devastating effects on mental health. If it persists, the effects of chronic stress and anxiety can come to the fore, causing problems personally and also for our businesses. If you need time out who is going to keep your business going?
Dependence on mobile devices: No human being was born with a mobile device by his/her side. However, the ‘always on’ culture has made us utterly dependent on our smartphones and tablets. We’re always expecting someone to get in touch with us, and as a result, we’re constantly wired, never letting ourselves relax.
While mobile devices have made our lives more convenient, our dependence on them doesn’t make for good news. Instead of pursuing things that could push our talents to the fore, most of us tend to spend more time with our mobile devices than with ourselves. As a result, we end up scrolling more than putting our talents to use.
Sleep deprivation: It’s said that people who function normally should get at least 6 – 8 hours of sleep. Sleeping is the body’s way of regenerating and rejuvenating. However, when we don’t allow our bodies the time to rest, we deprive it of sleep- one of the human body’s most important functions.
While a day or two of sleep deprivation isn’t a huge cause for concern, it might become one when it lasts for several days. Apart from causing physiological symptoms like headaches and lethargy, sleep deprivation can also cause severe mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
How to put a stop to the ‘always on’ culture
Here are a few tips you can use to deal with the ‘always on’ culture:
Learn to say no: When you can’t/don’t want to do something that your client asks you to do, you can simply say no and not care about the consequences. Of course, if the demand is reasonable and your answer is no, you can expect some degree of reprimanding. It is your business, you are the boss, learning to set firm boundaries with yourself is key.
Get clear on your ‘office hours’, between what hours are you willing to take clients calls, when are you willing to respond to client emails. Don’t just limit your boundaries to your interactions with you clients/customers, other activities that you need to do you keep your business running, take time as well – when are you willing to do these?
Work efficiently: A lot of business owners are forced to take work into ‘family / personal time’ simply because they’re not as efficient as they can be. When productivity falls due to inefficient work practices, you don’t have the space to say no. In such a situation, the only thing left to do is improve how you do your work to be more efficient and effective.
Some of the practices that you can adopt to ensure that your work is done more efficiently than before include:
Schedule your day
Be clear on your priorities for the day (what MUST be achieved)
Set yourself up for success, what can you do today, that will support your future self
Remember, you may work for yourself, but you don’t have to do everything yourself
Stop paying attention to your smartphone after ‘office hours’: If you’ve developed the habit of paying attention to your laptop and/or your mobile devices after office hours for business-related developments, stop right away!
Turn off notification so they do not pop up on your home screen when you have finished for the day. Delate apps you do not need access to 24/7. Pop to Argos and buy an alarm clock to get your phone out of your bedroom.
I dare you to right now, look at your phone usage report – how many hours a day or week are you spending on your phone? How many times are you picking up your phone during the day just to check you have not missed anything?
Start getting intentional with your mobile devices, they can be a massive non-productive time zap.
For me personally, to help with ‘switching-off’ my household has no phone Sundays. It is time we talk together; we connect without technology. I am sure most of us can remember life before the mobile phone, we survived! Businesses were built and succeeded!
In countries such as Canada and France, the ‘always on’ culture has been thoroughly criticized by government officials, and for a good reason too. Officials have recognised that the culture prevents people from enjoying time with themselves and their families and have enforced laws that require companies to expect less of their employees. Yes, working for yourself, employment law does not always come into it, but this approach highlights how important it is to look after yourself. Why did you go into business? Was it to have more time with family or have more free time? Have you achieved that, or are you working more than ever?
How to cope with the ‘always on’ culture
If you are struggling to find the balance that works for your right now, there are certain ways through which you can embrace this ‘always on’ culture until you find a better alternative.
Practice deep breathing and meditation: Being constantly connected to the internet and notified regarding a variety of developments can take a toll on your mind, making it difficult for you to relax and unwind. In such a scenario, you need to start practicing deep breathing exercises and meditation for keeping yourself as stress-free as possible.
Meditation and deep breathing enable your mind to function calmly. Practicing them, in the long run, can help you avoid health problems caused by chronic stress and anxiety.
Limit the time that you spend on your phone: If you know that your work requires you to be online all the time and you’re still going overboard with your use of your mobile device, it’s time to shake things up!
Make a daily routine to follow and ensure that you have certain hours dedicated to using your mobile devices. In this way, you’ll be able to cope with the demands of your workplace while retaining your sanity.
Exercise: No matter how much you reduce your use of mobile devices, there’s nothing like exercise to let out excess negative energies.
Be it in the gym or out in the park, ensure that you get at least half an hour’s worth of exercise every day. The more you sweat, the more your body releases toxic elements. All in all, exercise leads to better sleep, health, and increase positivity.
The ‘always on’ culture is difficult to accept, but unfortunately, it’s something that the modern world is built and running on. The best way for you to deal with it is to say no, but if you can’t, you’ve got to cope with it.
About our Guest Blogger:
Elizabeth Houghton is a clarity and Career transition coach with an extensive background as a HR Executive. She has had the pleasure of working with leaders and emerging leaders from diverse industries from mining, to retail design, to the car industry, for well over a decade. Elizabeth is passionate about people, individual potential and the opportunity all organisations have of developing people and business alike.
Elizabeth loves working with people to uncover their passion helping them to achieve their professional goals, because when our work brings us satisfaction it impacts positively on all aspects of our lives, our self-confidence, and our wellbeing.
Elizabeth has been featured in several publications discussing modern leadership approaches to create environments where all team members can thrive. She hates to name drop, but here are a few - Yahoo Finance, Home Business Magazine, 35 Thousand, and most recently named in the top 10 Female Life Coaches of Australia 2021.
When she isn’t writing articles or listening to podcasts, she is a typical English tea drinker, even in the middle of the summer in Australia – she believes a cup of tea and a biscuit is the answer to any situation.