Are you tied to technology?

TREND WATCH

Are you tied to technology?

Bangalore lad Ahmed Faiyaz returned from Dubai for a quick launch of his book, Love, Life and All That Jazz. Ahmed, a modest-sounding, sincere-looking MBA, works for the Dubai Health Authority. Some months ago, he requested a change in his job profile — he moved from a hectic work schedule to an 8 am-to-3 pm day, giving him time to pursue his passion for writing.  Result? His first novel, a set of soon-to-be-published short stories and the idea for a trilogy! All this, within a few months of taking a conscious decision to restore some balance in his life. You should have seen him at the end of March, calmly signing copies of his book, smiling at everyone, participating in discussions around his book and trying to organise a new cover for the next edition. Clearly, Ahmed had regained control of his life.

Not everyone is quite as lucky. Before you know it, you are putting in 60-hour workweeks, managing unrelenting pressure, letting your personal life disintegrate and sacrificing your relationships at the altar of an often boring career.
The funny thing is, today you don’t even realise that you have slipped into a 60-hour workweek — thanks to the fact that work creeps into life in an alarmingly insidious manner via mobile phones, text and wireless devices that keep you connected 24X7. Even if you haven’t been to office on the weekend, you can be sure office has come to you at the oddest of hours over the always-on networks.

Can we have someelectronic silence, please?
For some, like Santosh Kumar, who runs a travel portal, being active on social networks and being always available brings in a huge chunk of his business. “I have to spend a lot of time on the computer, updating and answering queries,” says Santosh. “There is no off time.

It is sometimes frustrating since people don’t value personal time and call at obscene hours.” Santosh says he does feel like throwing the switch on connectivity, and enjoying some electronic silence in his life.

According to Shubha Ramachandran, who provides consulting around water management, “Mobile and email connectivity help us answer many more queries than we’d be able to in a regular eight-hour workday. Being connected almost around the clock definitely helps us be more responsive.” While Shubha has good intentions at the core of her outlook, and is driven by the pressing need to ensure water conservation, the real issue is: isn’t she taking on more work than is healthy for a single person in an eight-hour work day?

Connectedness and availability are slowly but surely interfering with our lives. Our priorities have changed and social acceptance of the same is near complete. Today, no one thinks twice when the phone rings during a game of golf and most people actually excuse themselves to answer, mumbling something to the effect, “My client from the US. Have to take this one…”

All work and no play...
 It isn’t surprising at all that the effect of our pervasive communication networks is resulting in higher incidents of coronary disease, blood pressure complaints and stress-related conditions.

“When we begin to work in the middle of play, what can you expect?” asks Gaurav Dublish, director of an outdoor and adventure gear manufacturer for whom play is part of every day life. Dublish himself uses a Nokia E-Series, is very prompt with his business responses, but draws the line once he is home, rarely glancing at his mail or responding to business calls. “If I don’t do this, I will surely end up responding to mail from a hospital bed!” he says.

Creating strong lines of delineation between work and personal life is critical to remaining productive at work as well. Productivity does degrade as the brain is stressed for longer durations. And it isn’t just about durations of rest. Non-stop monotony of work can also lead to severe loss of creativity and innovativeness. Isn’t it time organisations questioned this culture of people needing to absorb more and more work into their personal time?

Restore sanity to life
The Philips Innovation Campus in Bangalore had been in the news for sending out specific instructions to discourage employees from working over weekends. If an employee put in too many hours at work, he or she was actually pulled up!

“Unfortunately,” says Ashok Shastry, Founder and CEO of a company that addresses the needs of professionals who have opted out of regular jobs and now focus on non-stressful consulting, “We don’t have too many enlightened companies.” But says, Shastry, there are other innovative solutions to restore sanity to life.

Working out of home is often seen as one sane way of beating work pressure. The very same technology that keeps you chained to work 24X7 has the ability to offer telecommuting — so you can be working while talking to friends, family and the newspaper delivery boy! Of course, this comes at a cost.

While you can easily accomplish structured, pre-decided tasks remotely, you miss out on participation in work place water-cooler talk, and on opportunities thrown up by unplanned issues. The advantage of working from an office is that you get to solve unexpected problems and build your skills — a fact that can make the difference between an average and a great career.

But, as anyone will tell you — even a machine needs to switch off. Says Namit Nangia of  a service that helps people eat and live healthier, and manage stress, “At the end of the day, put aside work, housekeeping or family concerns for a brief period before bedtime and allow yourself to fully relax. Don’t spend this time planning tomorrow’s schedule or doing chores you didn’t get around to during the day. Remember that you need time to recharge and energise yourself. You’ll be much better prepared to face another stressful day.”

The fallout of being connected is the other extreme — the desire to break away. This in itself is throwing up new possibilities. Places that do not have mobile signals are turning into premium vacation spots. A resort in Kerala recommends that you leave your watch behind as you enter. And people are junking careers to opt for consulting. Of course, the smartest way is to align what you do with your values, your passion, your physical and mental capability and reward yourself with a life that has no stress and gives you ample time to be yourself.

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