The Strategist

The Fine Line Between Work and Private

04/10/2015 - 17:04

Do you give instructions to subordinates through a messenger? Answer from one screen to messages from colleagues, friends, and family leadership? Tweet at a meeting? Read about what "awesome" modern IT progress may turn out in and how to avoid it.

andrew leddy
andrew leddy
Ask yourself a simple question: How often do you and your friends response to professional mail on Sunday, originally entered the internet for fun? Now turn over the situation. You are thrilled  that employees engaged in irrelevant affairs during working hours? You are not alone. A wave of discontent from management follows the previous wave associated with the dissatisfaction of employees in that job "eats" family life.

Today, the boundaries between work and personal life are becoming increasingly blurred. You might say that this is not new and is not original, but it is certainly true. Modern communication tools offer more extensive possibilities and increasingly easy access to information. The number of technical means providing access to online networks and applications is growing. Private and professional are intertwining more closely with each other, since both of these areas of our lives coexist in the same spot - namely, on the screen. As a result, employees surf on the internet while responding to professional e-mail; listen to music compiling reports; messages are posted on Twitter during meetings, etc. Providing employees smartphone for them to be contacted at any time can have unexpected consequences completely opposite to intentions of the authorities.

Why does the constant technological revolution not only encourage the invasion of work into private life (as it was in the past), but on the contrary, personal life into work?

A radical difference of modern screens from their predecessors is the versatility. If earlier technical means say simply provided access to remote offices, now modern technology allows us to be at the same time in different locations to communicate with different people and do different activities. We can talk with the family and the chief at the time; friends and suppliers, etc. Such situations are both natural and inevitable, as we constantly monitor what is happening on the screen, with one or two e-mail inboxes, Skype accounts and on several social networks. The screen has become a platform, "market square", where you can meet anyone and at almost any time. However, being engaged in several cases at the same time is quite difficult, and, besides, it greatly reduces our concentration.

Each day, millions of people face a lot of professional and personal e-mail notifications, telephone calls, deadlines, as well as a variety of images and documents that are created, viewed and processed on the screen.

When one decides to change his role of an employee, colleague, spouse ... How to decide on any urgent request to answer first?  

In the mind’s eye, everyone understands that it is best to focus on just one case and bring it to the end. But in practice, many of us are rapidly moving from one activity to another, concentrating on each only briefly. Even in this case, first of all, urgent business should be settled. However, too often a case seems to be urgent not because of their nature, but due to the way we got the information about them before. As a rule, an email response seems to be less urgent than picking up the phone; a tweet should be answered faster than on a blog post, etc. As various means of communication challenge our attention, we try to simplify communications and make them visually accessible.  

Some of the modern computer programs for management are examples of this. Employees communicate in virtual space and contribute to the achievement of the project objectives with the help of images, not real action. The office has became a real virtual world. At first glance, this may seem like an exaggeration, but observations in enterprises show that it can be quite real.

How do those systems contribute to the "abstract management"? Let's consider one of the most commonly used computerized administrative and management systems: ERP. Managers - users ERP - focus exclusively on the image on the screen, watching and controlling the actions of subordinates, resources and projects, which are painted in a different color elements in a computer program. To clarity, let us give an example. Yellow signal warns project manager on the need to expand the project team. Viewing the online database of the personnel department can help select a suitable candidate. The project manager clicks, drag and drop the name of a right person from the database to the list of employees working on the project. The selected employee receives an email with the details of a new job, and the green light pleasing to eye comes.
However, not everything is rosy. Our analysis showed that the version of reality on computer screens may differ significantly from the actual activities of the company. Faced with an endless stream of challenges and demands from senior management, managers in order to save time, choose not to come into contact with the staff. Detachment from reality comes. All attention is focused on the game of numbers on the screen. As a result, the work begins to resemble a computer game, where tasks must be performed quickly, without much regard of finite tasks, or the real consequences of acts performed on the screen. Such control leads to indifference of leaders and lack of initiative of subordinates.

How to prevent the invasion of private things in the work of personnel (and vice versa)?

In a wider format that question can be formulated as follows: how to respond to the fact that employees are overwritten with friends at work, the husband or the wife is responsible for the professional e-mail during dinner, and students roam the Internet during lectures?

Trying to control the activities of millions of people on the screen is useless beyond the doubt. For example, in a classroom, it is not possible to regain the attention of all present by means of sanctions or punishments. Perhaps a more rational response on the part of management may be to create a list of actions to be carried out screens. This will help create a context in which you can immediately feel the concept of time and real communication. If, for example, you hold a meeting or lecture and need to encourage active thinking, often the easiest way is to return to the pre-computer era methods. Do not neglect the use of pen and paper, real communication in small working groups and more large-scale collective debate contributing to the birth of the best ideas, which then can be represented on slides or video. These limited-time events make everyone's time to leave such a beloved virtual reality and then go back to the specific place and time, focus on the single most important task, establish a process of real communication of manager and subordinates.

At universities, work and even at home, sometimes we need to spend time behind the screen, and it certainly enriches our lives. However, managers, teachers, and possibly parents must decide which tasks require absolute concentration of the participants and try to make sure that these tasks were performed away from the virtual world of screens.

Original by François Régis Puyou

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