Is Something Wrong with the Way We Work?

Summing Up Who is to blame for our pressure-packed 24/7 work culture? Technology? Globalization? Increasingly demanding customers? Jim Heskett's readers say it's best to first look in the mirror.
by James Heskett

Summing Up

Fixing the Way We Work

There is a lot wrong with the way we work, but very little of this is due to new networking capabilities or communications technology. Neither can we blame increasing globalization and the demands of doing business across 24 time zones. Some of the problem is created by customers and clients and their increasing expectations that we be available day and night. Even more can be laid at the feet of leadership.

But ultimately the primary culprit is us. That's my sense of the comments concerning this month's topic.

As Dean Turner put it, "Clients increasingly have an expectation of reaching their attorneys at any hour of the day (or night) and getting responses in near-real time," he writes. "Reaching across time zones to contact someone is a given with little consideration to what the other party might by doing. Technology is making it easier and faster … being 'on call' 24/7 is now viewed by many as the norm." Phil Clark faulted leaders for failing to provide "healthy leadership" on this issue, saying "We have created a 24/7 world that is not necessary."

The costs of this always on culture are high. Karen Fox commented that this mindset "leads to poor morale and burn out," as well as a loss of effective communication skills. Gerald Nanninga added that "it is destroying the art of pondering" and "by valuing work as a 24/7 activity we are devaluing everything else." Rita Taylor shared that she "learned the hard way" about the physical, social, and financial toll that a failure to deal with the 24/7 work mentality can trigger. As she put it, "What you ignore in your life is going to be the piece that will take the rest of your life down."

Many felt that the real problem is us. As Taat Subekti put it, "We must blame ourselves … we have full authority of our own body and mind." Mark Hebert said, "We choose to sacrifice relationships, health, and people because we are greedy for money." Wayne Brewer added he doesn't blame the tools of technology. "The responsibility lies with the individual being able to prioritize … (based on) values…"

Technology may be part of the solution. Atin Roy commented that "technology is just a tool that helps make our lives better and simple…." Margie Parikh pointed out the "leverage" that technology can provide, commenting that "who says that if I want to service my client I have to be at my desk in my office?" Tom Dolembo, who has "no choice but to be 24/7 and technologically connected "copes and even thrives by spending that 24/7 everywhere but the office to benefit from the stimulus of solving client problems while "preferably working in a garden or even petting the dog or cat."

If the problem is us, the solution may lie with us. Joe Fernandez recommended that we train ourselves to be better organized and forward looking rather than reactive. "Similar to Weight Watchers, we need to partner with someone who can help us change."

How can we fix what's wrong with the way we work? What do you think?

Original Article

This month's topic was triggered in part by the information (not fact-checked) that in several European countries where vacations are mandated, most employees take their prescribed amounts of time off. In America, where vacation time is not mandated, roughly half of workers last year had vacation time left over and failed to take an average of 11 days of earned vacation.

Then several books having to do with how to get control of our work lives and our personal networking technologies hit my desk within a matter of days. Two were of particular interest. The first, iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming Its Hold On Us, by Larry Rosen, maintains that personal networking technologies contribute to, among other things, narcissism, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and the "Google effect," an inability to remember facts that we assume are on Google. (One factoid: Seventy percent of those who report heavy use of mobile devices experience "phantom vibration syndrome," when one's pocket buzzes and there's no phone there.)

The second book, Sleeping With Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work, by Harvard Business School Professor Leslie Perlow, describes an experiment that ultimately enabled consultants at Boston Consulting Group to reclaim at least a small portion of their lives from the onslaught of communication technology.

In her initial work Perlow chose the goal of engaging a six-person team to implement a procedure for freeing up every team member from their networking devices for one evening of PTO, "predictable time off." There could be no perceived increase in anyone's workload or deterioration in client service resulting from the PTO.

She provided the group with a process for approaching the task, something she calls "structured dialogue," in which the team engaged in "Pulse Check" meetings every week to discuss their feelings about their work, about themselves, and how the PTO goal was to be achieved.

Some of the more interesting behaviors encountered by Perlow and the team members in the dialogues were triggered by a culture centered around long hours and a 24/7 focus on the needs of BCG's clients, fears that PTO would contribute to poor performance reviews, and a reluctance to discuss with colleagues personal matters that begged for free time. But as a result of the effort to achieve a small, doable change, team members succeeded in freeing up one night per week from their devices and their work.

By the time the process had been implemented in more than 900 BCG teams globally Perlow could present evidence that it had enhanced such things as excitement about their work, satisfaction with their jobs and work-life balance, and perceptions of team collaboration, efficiency, and effectiveness.

What, if anything, is wrong with this picture? (In spite of differences in labor law in the US and other countries, survey data suggest alarmingly low levels of job satisfaction in all developed economies.) Is our obsession with technology creating new kinds of potential hazards in the workplace? Is there something wrong with the way we work? What can we do about it? What do you think?

To Read More:

Leslie A. Perlow, Sleeping With Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work (Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2012).

Larry Rosen, iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession With Technology and Overcoming Its Hold On Us (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

    • Dean Turner
    • COO, Steptoe & Johnson PLLC
    I firmly believe there IS something wrong with the way we work, and in the legal community, it is getting worse, not better. Clients increasingly have an expectation of reaching their attorneys at any hour of the day (or night) and getting responses in near-real time. Attorneys are loathe to use "out of office" automatic replies for their e-mail for fear of a client thinking he/she is unreachable. And forwarding calls from the office line to the smart phone is a matter of routine. Reaching across time zones to contact someone is a given with little consideration to what the other party might be doing. Technology is making it easier and faster to reach out and touch someone, and with unresponsiveness often cited as the number one reason why a client changes attorneys, being "on call" 24/7 is now viewed by many as the norm.
    • Tom Dolembo
    • Founder, New North Institute
    PTO is interesting, but I have no choice but to be 24/7 and technologically connected. My work is consolidated investment banking, consulting, writing and farming. I learned years ago that for me, I had to stay very busy, never think of retiring, and be outside as much as I can. I have taken many conference calls in the deep woods, in snowshoes, in the dead of the north Michigan winter. In a sense it would be like Gulag Archipelago with an Ipod and cell phone. I then haul my own cut wood over a half mile pulling a heavy sled through deep snow. Gets desperate. Accessing the internet and working with clients while tending stock or dealing with the eternal needs of the earth is very much my day.

    This work style is, I find, somewhat similar to my ancestors who farmed and also thought. As odd as it seems, combining physical labor with creative or thought work offers a powerful difference in what I see as a solution set. Getting a phone call from someone sitting in the warmth of an office, while I am accessing docs and spreadsheets sitting on a frozen log in a swamp offers up the sort of out-of the-box focused response one does not get otherwise.

    The most interesting experience is that often a squirrel, crow or sandhill crane will perch nearby during a pause for consult, offer up sounds and motions that add a little on my side for perspective. Staying alive is, after all, their business as well. If nothing else, a consultant should take at least 20% of all calls outside rain or shine, preferably working in a garden or even petting the dog or cat. The difference would be interesting to study, if for no other reason that to amuse the wildlife with our illusions of control. I am reminded of the quote, "If you want to make God laugh, create a plan."
    • Bob
    • Principal, Transpective Business Consulting
    Any strength taken too far can become a weakness. Technology isn't any different than people - technology taken too far (attached/connected around the clock) can also become a weakness. It sets up an unbalanced polarity. There is a pull between appearing "committed" and "having interests outside of work".
    • Karen Fox
    • Project Manager, Professional Examination Service
    I am a Project Manager in IT and would agree also. Our developers work long hours on a project on site. Go home and work more hours from home. Prior to this recent Memorial day weekend I asked one of the team what he was doing for the weekend. He replied that he would be coding, not spending time with his family or playing with his young son.

    All of this time and lack of rest which enables people to recharge leads to poor morale and burn out.

    Furthermore, I believe with the advancements in technology and social media (all good things in one respect), people are losing, or not even developing, effective communication skills.
    • Rod Rodriguez
    • Associate, C3TS Consulting
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way we now work. The greatest advantage to the new modality, made possible by our technology tools/toys, is that we work more efficiently, with reduced overhead, and our individual -- and aggregate -- productivity is greatly increased. There has been a period of adaptaptation, where we have each sought and found our highest output ratio. We dedicate more of our time to productive efforts and we do this by simply gravitating to what works best for us, but we definitely dedicate less time to needless activities, such as driving to, and back from, work. We are able to communicate better, remain in near-constant touch with who we wish to be in contact with; and because we choose where to conduct business from, we are able to avoid those we have no desire or need to see, and we can choose when to conduct business and when not to. It's a lot more fun conducting business this way, too.
    • Gay N. Gooen
    • Executive Coach, Strategic Coaching, Inc.
    Over-commitment to work and under-satisfaction with work outcomes is not new to the population I work with. Often, by the time busy executives get time to see their coaches, there has been major damage to their psyches, their marriages, their relationships with children and even, with their own selves.

    Too much time on the internet, on smart phones, and agreement to meet via technology outside of reasonable time frames for these kinds of workers erodes the important and truly human requirements for living life fully.

    By the time I see many of these top execs, they are asking the question, "Is this all there is?" and "Why do I feel so bad?" Add to these questions a genuine sense of physical pain -- back aches and neck aches because of how we are sitting, talking on the telephone while eating, or worse yet, not eating until 9 or 10 PM, and then, eating junk food and falling asleep in front of the television -- well, if this is you, you know the drill.

    All in all, this is more than a disorder; it is a way of life for many, and I believe it will get worse before it gets much better. In the papers, we're reading about politics, wars, and all kinds of other disorders, rather than the REAL challenges of technology, which are deeply human.

    Gay N. Gooen
    Strategic Coaching, Inc.
    • Anonymous
    I believe that being "always on" degrades my personal productivity when taken in total. When taken in aggregate I work better and relate better to others when I have a regular cycle of down time. I think of it like the changing of the seasons, or leaving a field fallow for a period instead of planting every year forever.
    I personally have experienced phantom vibration syndrome as described in the article - sometimes when my phone is in a different pocket altogether!
    • Phil Clark
    • Clark & Associates
    Cell phones, smart phones and any other electronic device that tethers us to the world are the new adult "binkies". They are the new security trinkets that help people feel better about themselves. All the phobias and insecurities, the feeling of being needed or important, and the sense of belonging that come about from healthy relationships are filled by devices. This is sad.

    Sure technology has it's place and uses in the modern world. It can make life easier, faster, more efficient and often allow us to work away from offices. They should give us more time to build personal relationships with family and friends but alas it is much abused.

    Oh yeh, the CEOs and "Important people" that have to have the technology to function and just cannot get away from work. Fire them. They provide no healthy leadership, no providing responsibilities to others to prepare or protect the company if they should leave or expire. The best leaders I have seen were the ones that could leave for a week and the company or organization would continue without missing a heartbeat.

    We have created a 24/7 world that is not necessary. I think Wall Street and all financial trades should be accomplished one day a week. Currently, reactions to rumors and short-term events rack financial stability world-wide. We have created a reactive world with little common sense and stability. Hopefully, in years to come some reality will return to economics, governments, and life.
    • Gerald Nanninga
    • Principal Consultant, Planninga from Nanninga
    This new type of work life disturbs me in two ways. First, it is destroying the art of pondering.

    Great advances come from great thoughts, and great thoughts need pondering time. Two studies come to mind. In one, researchers tried to find a common denominator in people referred to as geniuses. They discovered that the only connection was that most geniuses rest a lot and sleep a lot more than others (often twice a day). A second study tried to figure out what lead most to "eureka!" moments of insight. They found that eureka moments come most frequently when you put aside work and let your mind rest in pleasurable diversions.

    This new work-style may help us do more work, but it may hurt us in our ability to discover the right work to do. We become slaves to the status quo rather than creators of something better.

    Second, by valuing work as a 24/7 activity we are devaluing everything else. Yes, we need jobs to get the money to feed our physical needs, but what about feeding our souls? I found it ironic that this topic would be placed in the same edition of Working Knowledge where Clayton Christensen talks about "How Will You Measure Your Life?" I don't want my epitaph to read "He was always available for work."
    • Dennis Hopwood
    • Director of Human Resources, Whitman College
    I can speak from much experience about the high tech sector. In the U.S., it moves at ever-accelerating speed, disruptive change is the order of the day, and personal resiliency is essential. For most high tech execs, any separation of business and personal lives is utterly perilous. The lines blur quickly. Staying connected and current is mandatory. Any other work mode is career-limiting. The business can literally blow past you. This manic lifestyle is narcotic and causes unspeakable wreckage in personal lives. In contrast, the Europeans have a cultural sensibility that places a higher value on life/work balance. They fiercely protect their weekends with their families and take 4-6 week extended vacations every year. They think the American approach to time off is utterly absurd. In my experience, many Europeans work harder and put in longer hours than their American peers during the work week. But, they enjoy a healt
    hier, more balanced perspective, insisting upon separation and refreshment from the pressures of their work. Americans pay a heavy social cost for their relentless, consuming pursuit of business results.
    • Anonymous
    Having relocated from Germany for three years to the U.S. in a Global Fortune 20 company before smartphones were invented (1998-2001), I'm wondering what this is all about: productivity, show or just fear.
    What surprised me to see in the headquarter was that most Americans were not eating their lunch in the cafeteria but at their desk. I strongly believe that Americans are under constant fear they could get fired any moment, and they can in the U.S. So they put up a good show and demonstrate to their bosses how hard they work, even when eating lunch.
    As a human being you are hurting productivity if you don't have breaks. Having studied work science I know that everybody depending on the respective tasks needs a few or several breaks of a specific length a day, otherwise productivity goes down and failure rate up.
    And you need vacation to recharge your batteries and to ensure that you can be productive and healthy over your whole life cycle. It's maintenance.
    Being always on doesn't hurt if you get only a few inconvenient interrupts per month. But if it happens every day, it's just killing you. The result is more stress than you can bear, you get obese, you sleep less and need a ton of coffee which does not really compensate for lack of sleep, you hurt your health, etc.
    I guess Americans understand this all, but ultimately fear wins.
    As a side note - someone said: "we definitely dedicate less time to needless activities, such as driving to, and back from, work." Well, I've led a productivity improvement program in the delivery of a global IT outsourcing organization. We have measured and benchmarked productivity a lot. One result was very interesting: A delivery team where everybody worked in the same office was nearly 3x more productive than another team that had the same tasks and where everybody worked from home office. When everybody works in the same office on similar tasks, people go through a steap learning curve and can support each other on the fly. Not surprisingly, the CIO a while later cancelled nearly all home offices of the IT people.
    • Laurence Rohde
    • Price / Cost Analyst, CLI
    I would like to understand where and when the change took place as to how we (the technology driven) started to overload. To clarify my thought: In the beginning we would work 8 to 5 (8 hour work day) now 10 hours are the norm. We went from finished for the day to finish the "file" before I go home. Previous to this we would call it a day, now we finish up at home. I feel that if a study was done on what appears to be an excessive work load for the modern worker no matter what the job title. We would find that most workers spend more time working and more time at the office for less personnel gains (financial-promotions-pay raises-etc).

    Another thing is there is now a lack of respect for the person standing in front of us as when involved in meetings the cell phone appears to take priority over the meeting with the standard "Sorry, I need to take this call". Productive meetings are becoming a thing of the past as we struggle between our need to be the center of the room, problem is most of the time the decision makers or stake holders fail to realize that by shushing people so they can answer the phone they actually interrupt the flow of information and side track the conversations with updates heard just now on the phone.
    Historically we were a little more difficult to reach prior to the cell phone era. My thoughts are :
    1. We had time to construct our answers and gather the information necessary to give a complete answer
    2. There were less errors made since there was an actual strategy on approach
    3. There was time allotted to review our work before submitting it
    4. Stake holders and decision makers gave undivided attention to the task at hand
    I would like to truly construct a full piece on these factors but as we often hear I need to get back to the file.
    • Ahmed Y Issa
    • Head of sales, Aujan Industries Co.
    I believe something major is wrong with the way we work, we forget to evaluate and compare the input and output of the human resources, stereotpe believes have major impacts on our decisions, when we recruit, promote and appraise. We also take decisions based on half the truth, from the perespective of one side feedback,or on the situation of our mood and business as usual procedure without giving consideration to underlying issues.
    • Margie Parikh
    • Lecturer, BK School of Business Management
    I believe that the device-enabled work pattern is polarizing people more who are anyway having different preferences and abilities. Even before these devices became a way of life, people like Jack Welch believed and admonished that "There is no work-life balance."

    To the extent that people with matching frequency leverage the device capabilities, they will be able to use flexibility, juggle more, pack more variety in their life (who says that if I want to service my client I have to be at my desk in my office??), hopefully enriching the performance charts simultaneously as they enrich their lives.

    For the rest, it is painful anyway.
    • Joe Fernandez
    • Visa
    Our dependency on Smartphone and our inability to disconnect from work has limited us to take personal time off. We rely heavily on Smartphone to keep us updated about the work progress. Over time we have trained ourselves to be perpetually available to our colleagues & management. We have become our own slaves and haven't realized that personal time off is critical to re-energize. The scenario Professor Perlow suggests will work in a controlled setting. However, it is difficult to change behavior and so will fall back to our dependency on Smartphone. In today's business scenario, most organizations have onshore-offshore model. Thus work continues 24 x 5 and there is a constant change to the project status. Most managers wouldn't opt to be unplugged if the cost of being unplugged is too high. Organizations can impose mandatory PTO. It will only change the way people clock time but not the actual work. I may still show up at wor
    k and plow through my TO DO list and clock time as PTO. That's really not personal time off.
    In order for us to make the best use of personal time-off, we need to be better organized in our work-life balance. As an individual, we need to focus on creating a backup for ourselves. Develop strategies that help us to rely on individuals rather than technology. Train ourselves to be better organized and forward looking rather than reactive. Our inability to take personal time off is because we are caught off guard everyday with adhoc work. When we train ourselves to filter these adhoc / unorganized work requests, we will be better at managing our time. Books and training courses will NOT help us unless we commit ourselves to change our behavior. We are distracted due to technology and hence unable to invest in ourselves. What can we do about it? Change our habits and monitor our behavior. Similar to Weight Watchers, we need to partner with someone who can help us change (implement Professor Perlow's suggestion). If we are committed and we get a partner who is committed to
    help us change, we will be successful in increasing our number of PTOs.
    • Jay Somasundaram
    • Systems Analyst
    Covey posited the four quadrants.

    The science is clear. Urgent work is bio-chemically and psychologically addictive.
    • vic
    • coach consultant, design coaching
    Culturally we are applying a tech fix to social issues. Worse, we are fixated on tech to fix. Allied to that, we apply kinds of expertitis to defend ourselves from actually going and looking and seeing. Slow food reverses that, as does the actual, not MIT tech-fixated, Toyota lean thinking production system - a natural way.
    • Anonymous
    With more seemingly unlimited technological developments to come, this always-on high-stress environment that we have since roughly only 1/2 generation or less is not going to go away. Prof. Perlow suggests a small band-aid. But bigger powers might be at play. Over the next five to 10 generations one would expect to see Darwin's evolution happening in this field. Some peoples' genes will adapt and get modified, the respective persons will enjoy this environment and thrive. Others' genes will fail to adapt or even worse get modified in the wrong direction, and people will fail to cope and go under. Adding to my comment #11, I would suggest that Harvard uses this golden opportunity to embark on a long-term study how peoples' genes adapt to this high-stress environment over generations, or not.
    With those who fail, of course in a society with Christian values the question is, what to do with them?
    • Ravindra Edirisooriya
    • Accountant 06-07-12, Midwestern Small Business
    Communication technology frontier keeps expanding driven by visionaries like late Steve Jobs. Consumers (commercial and leisure) adapt the new technology to improve their work/leisure processes but how they adapt the new technology is driven by company culture and/or personal culture (explained by Professor Perlow and Professor Rosen) of the users. A school of political thought tells us that government should not save people from themselves. How many people check their phones, text or make calls while driving? Should government not try to save these people, if not from themselves, but from becoming a liability to the free society by setting up some rules, regulations or laws? New generations are (born freely) introduced to the 24/7 "wired" culture everyday and they seem to be incapable of setting business/personal rules to limit their work hours or social interactions since it (job/social relationships) has become the end
    and not the means to an end (having a "good" life). (Some new generation school kids are unable to add or subtract because the calculator is at hand and they are not required to be proficient in mental calculations in school. Where does it lead our free society?)

    People (and polity) are awakening to the fact that at all levels jobs are going to be in short supply compared to the number of people seeking jobs, for many reasons (discussed previously in this forum) in the future. Assuming that the job (free) market will assign the jobs to best qualified job seekers, what will be the fate of the rejected job seekers? Job sharing may reduce the scale of the problem to some extent but it will not solve the problem. What can the new communication technology do to increase jobs or assist the rejected (at all levels) job seekers in the market? There are many institutions that offer free knowledge/education in cyberspace. With increased bandwidth and a functional cellular-net (compared to the internet), 24/7 "wired" culture could be the panacea to bring out the best (hopefully not the worst) potential of every human being on earth!
    • David Physick
    • Glowinkowski International
    "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" says the old saw. This is a massive issue as various comments have highlighted impact on social fabric, education and formative social skills. We have massive problems across the planet and everyone running headlong with their eyes on their screens for the latest piece of data to react to isn't going to be helpful - the only certain outcome is the caravan hurtles off the road. We need some considered thought about how to tackle the major issues to restore balance and equanimity, e.g. better utilisation of human talent - why do we have such high unemployment alongside this situation of others working every hour. This is one instance where the power and accessibility of the new technology should be exploited to positive affect. This discussion is an example of doing that. I try and keep everything switched off on a Saturday to tend my garden and do other physical tasks and
    routines, which I find immensely therapeutic. I enjoy the visceral experience of reading the newspapers. "Everything but in moderation" as my dear old Mum remarks!
    • Srinivasan
    • Director, HP
    I believe it's a combination of technology and management theories (all applied inappropriately) that's causing this challenge.

    There's a proverbial saying in my mother tongue - "Even the nectar of immortality when had in excess, will turn poisonous."

    Fundamentally, I believe if you apply everything in a reasonable way - then it's effective. But when overdone it becomes counter-productive.

    Today agility has become a buzz-word; instant gratification has become the de-facto norm; CEOs look at weeks and months as the cycle time (even for planning and strategy).

    It's considered unfashionable if people were to think like Warren Buffet. (Buy into a company and don't worry about it's trading price ...).

    In such a world technology is just playing its role of accelerating this.

    When management gurus come back and preach (make it fashionable) - "fickleness (in the name of agility) is an issue, strategy is not-a-one-quarter-affair at a time, long-term does not end over a week-end , responsiveness is not a transaction performance at a time - but beyond that in responding in a consistent way... I think we can see the true improvements"

    Don't get me wrong - that I am not for agility and responsiveness. I just feel we are not applying it right... and all that technology is doing is accelerating this paradigm (That's what technology is for - accelerate whatever you do).

    So it's leadership that's causing the challenge.
    • Anonymous
    Just like anything else in this world, it's all about perspective. In my opinion, technology in itself has a dangerous potential in it's use because of the modern consuming culture in which it exists as a vital aspect of. Instant gratification, degradation, and, consumerism are all arguably negative factors of our modern culture that are catalyzed by technology. Technology, having such a large role in the workplace, present a great potential hazard in the work place, but just like perspective, it all depends on the individual.
    • Curtis Blais
    • Founder, Savant Advisory Inc.
    It is easy to point the finger at technology and use it as a scapegoat for the issues that society has let happen. The abuse of anything can lead to disastrous effects (a person can die from drinking too much water).

    Conversely, if North American society took the European approach, who would be there to bail out our countries because the culture had grown used to having 8 weeks holidays and the government pay for your full retirement at 45.

    Maybe the technology addiction is a wake up call for both cultures.
    • Rita Taylor
    • Owner, my own
    I owned and operated my company for approximately 30 years and rarely took time off. I finally closed my company down in 2001 and then shortly after that became quite sick. I lost my voice for 18 months and then fought for it for another 4 years. My take away from all of this:
    The area of your life that you ignore is going to be the area that breaks down. I lost a marriage, my health, and then because I lost my health I went backswards financially.
    I know now that I hit burnout and I don't think I ever fully bounced back.
    So really what is the price that you want to pay? If you are an employer, it makes sense to give time to your people to recharge. And if you are the top guy - don't be so self important that you think that someone can't do your job.
    I learned all this the hard way. Hope this will help someone out there.
    What you ignore in your life is going to be the piece that will take the rest of your life down. What piece are you ignoring? Can't stress this enough.
    • Susan
    • Parrish, self-employed
    I often ask myself are we really that important -- is everything really that urgent. The answer keeps coming back as "no."
    • Anonymous
    I recently trekked up to the Everest Base Camp and I had no internet connection. I have to say the world remained the same even then!
    • Hugh Quick
    • Home, None
    It is good to see HBS staff continuing to challenge popular wisdom/conventions. I hope they will continue to do so. It encourages me to try to do the same in the small village community here.
    • Taat Subekti
    • Chairman, Dharma Shanti Foundation
    I believe, that we should return back to manage ourselves. It seems to me that we may blame other for creating us as we are today. However, if we want to look to ourselves, the decision is ours. Time is ours not theirs. Our body is also ours, not theirs. Just as if we are gaining weight ot if we become obese or overweight. We must blame ourselves, because we are not able to control ourselves and manage food what we eat; or we are able to push ourselves to exercise to keep balance. So briefly, we have full authority of our own body and mind. So it is up to us how we will manage ourselves. Just as we frequently here parents advise their kids, "be yourself and dare to be different". We must be ourselves and dare to different from others
    • Anonymous
    There is "Life" outside the work.
    What values you hold on life in this worlds will determine your commitment to your work, your family, your friends etc.
    The quality of interaction in the workplace should be considered.
    • Frances Pratt
    • Owner, Metisan
    Technology is a tool and used well our connectedness can be of great service, like Tom Dolembo says it gives us choices. On the other side of choice comments from people like Rita Taylor show that when we stay on auto-pilot, our choices can have big impacts on our life.

    I remember before online everything ... I was working longer hours and over the weekend. The reason for this was I was promising things to my clients on Monday, or early in the week, knowing full well that this would necessitate working on the weekend. I was becoming bored with my life and wanted balance, so one day I made the decision not to work on the weekend (except if I really needed to). The first weekend I didn't work ... do you know how many people at work (colleagues and clients) noticed? None! Then I started to ask my clients when they needed things. Most times I could meet their expectations within the 5 day week, and if not I was able to negotiate with them around this.

    In the end ... we have choices & so do our clients. When we assume we know their expectations, we very often err on the side of over-delivery putting extra strain on our shoulders. As Jay Somasundaram suggests, Stephen Covey has some good advice about your work quadrants and also starting with the end in mind. We are in control when we are at the fulcrum of our lives and not at the end of the see saw.

    My answers to this: Use your tools and don't be used by them and have open and frank conversations with your colleagues and clients about delivery dates and expectations. Be prepared to say no to preserve your life balance. You will be surprised about how much pressure is actually self imposed.
    • Philippe Gouamba
    • Vice President of Human Resources, Skyline Windows, LLC
    What, if anything, is wrong with this picture? What is wrong with this picture is that highly intelligent telecom engineers and software developers around the world are competing and doing what they do best, which is to bring to the consumer the best and the fastest and the most user friendly software applications for the end user. The end user is deluged with "must have" technology that he has not even figured out how to use yet...but he must be the first on his block to have it. A note from Motorcycle racing: When the smart and eager Engineers at Yamaha offered 9- time world champion Valentino Rossi more power for his M-1 Motorcycle, Rossi replied that he did not need more power, he needed the same amount of power but in more tractable or usable form. That is how Yamaha's Big Bang engine came into existence. Just as Rossi did, the end user needs to be able to say ENOUGH distractions, please give me cool and usable tools
    instead of mind-numbing distractions.
    (In spite of differences in labor law in the US and other countries, survey data suggest alarmingly low levels of job satisfaction in all developed economies.) Is our obsession with technology creating new kinds of potential hazards in the workplace? Yes, absolutely! Anyone with a computer or a smart phone or a tablet is barraged minute by minute with a flood of data, of which 70 percent of is junk. Yet we are all "forced" to look at the junk to be able to categorize it as such. The act of checking the junk has used up more of our limited attention span.
    Is there something wrong with the way we work? Yes there is. Today's most modern societies are spoiled. We can be extremely productive or we can be extremely distracted or we can be both simultaneously; a recipe for total disaster, occurring at work or even when we are on the road - same distractions.
    What can we do about it? We can manage our time better. We can TURN OFF the pda, the computer, the smart phone for a moment. Multi-tasking is really cool but only when accomplishing something worthwhile.
    What do you think? The current technology race is cool, it is awesome but is its aim is to improve MAN's quality of life or simply to sell more gadgets?. I am not sure that MAN's quality of life has been improved with the latest tablets and smart phones. Can we live without our gadgets? Heck NO! Can you remember back to the time you did not have a cell phone? How did we all manage? MAN will forever be mesmerized by new technology - sigh!! We are HOPELESS!
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC(India) Private Limited
    Most of us work in accordance with demands of the situation in which we are at that point of time. No doubt we are obsessed with technology but we have to keep in view the enormous time saving and efficiency this leads to. Our ambition to professionally grow and succeed also leads to this so called (by some) indulgence.
    While that is generally the psyche of the present forward looking executive, it is also a hard reality that he has ( as this is very low in the list of his priorities) allotted negligible(if at all) time to his own life beyond the job/work. He rarely sits in peace with himself pondering on what can give him true happiness, happiness which is not due to events happening around. Further, the absence of work-life-balance leads to disturbed family life; there has to be work as well as "play" to achieve a balance!
    Excess usage of technical tools is ultimately harmful for mental and physical health and this needs to be guarded against.
    • Mark Hebert
    • Consultant, Aaron's
    The problem isn't technology. The problem is greed. Being connected 24/7 is a choice we make. Taking calls, participating in conferences, answering emails, and all the other work we carry around with us is a choice we make. We make the choice to be plugged in because we either want to gain a potential benefit, or prevent a potential loss. We choose to sacrifice relationships, health, and people because we are greedy for money. The LOVE of money is the root of all evil. All evil includes all these ailments we are now seeing. Its amazing how relevant the Bible is.
    • Shaiful
    The only wrong is the way we think that lead to wrong way of doing things. The issue is we being outsmart by the prevailing technology; we lost in the maze of technology created by us. This can be visualized by the Transformer movie; robots dictate our life instead we manage them in the end. Look around us what is actually happening is that the reality is not far from the fiction movie metaphorically.

    Almost technology has taken over our brain. We think least when we do work because we are spoilt by choice of apps. We stuck to the limitation that is set in the apps that we choose to do our work. Emotional factor is almost nil to be considered by technology, far cry the spiritual factor. Technology will succumb to irritable consequences without those dimensions.
    • Wayne Brewer
    I wouldn't blame the tools of technology because they are only tools, like a hammer or a pencil. The responsibility lies with the individual being able to prioritize and doing so consciously and with a purpose. Prioritization requires values in order for some things to be more important than others. So what we may be seeing are really symptoms of either a values deficit or folks on auto-pilot letting choices get made for them.
    • Anonymous
    Maybe what we need to do is look at the environment in which we work instead of the way we work. I don't think a good alignment exists. Competition drives efficiency, but in the current setting we favor driving away competition. We talk about capitalism that was founded on this idea, but yet we drive it away with policies designed for "one size fits all." Without the nimbleness of small companies we are driving away creativity and innovation for the sake of preserving existing products and services. What happens when the well runs dry? Who will we blame then?

    Do employees prefer working in inflexible hierarchical conditions for low wages or do they prefer challenging existing methods to look for ways to improve? I believe most people do not want to work in inflexible hierarchical conditions, but it seems the environment we have created caters to these conditions. Where is the leadership?

    Do leaders not listen to their followers or do they simply manage only within their realm of experience? I believe most people want to learn from experience and have some input about making products and services better. To listen to employees and improve conditions requires leadership not managers.
    • Atin Roy
    • Partner, Wonderworks East
    I believe technology is just a tool that helps make our lives better and simple. The problem begins when we stop looking at it as a a thing that helps us achieve a result and begin to look at it as the solution itself.

    Over the last couple of years, especially in the advertising and communication industry, people have substituted market visits with information from the internet. Often insight presentations are made basis thoughts from reports found on the internet. And ideas are devised from those findings. Very few actually venture out and sweat it in the dusty real market place and among real human beings conducting those commercial transaction.

    I believe, no amount of paperwork/internet research can substitute experience of something. And it is the onus of the leaders in organisations to help promote a culture where the teams are encouraged to get down and dirty in their fields of work.

    It's comeback time for hands, legs, pencils, sheets of paper etc.
    • Shoana McManus
    • Managing Director, Art of Staff Pty Ltd
    What a great topic to explore. I am not surprised by Perlow's results. The thing that comes to mind for me is that the obsession with technology does not leave me time to do the reflection that is necessary to think more deeply about ideas and solutions to complex, adaptive problems. The process of allowing the subconscious to work on a problem without contstant interference from other work stimuli, particularly stimuli about the problem at hand, is critical for me to get results that are unique. By this I mean that my mind will take in or process information when I am doing my leasure activities, such as hiking, kayaking etc that actually release the answers I am looking for. I am currently doing a leadership program as a participant and we use Facebook as a primary point of communication between face to face sessions. I have found this to be intrusive into my life and removes the space I had for my subconscious to work, res
    ulting in increased pressure and depression (which while I am subject to it medically I hadn't had for nearly three years previously). I am really interested to hear other points of view on this.
    • Anonymous
    Not only is technology invaded our personal hours, the problems with the way we work are greater than just the use of technology. Gone are the days when it was acceptable to disagree in the workplace. Today's atmosphere is" Don't speak, don't tell." Neopotism is so widely spread, in spite of any legal ramifications, that everything is a secret in the work place. Unless something radical happens to curtail this downward spiral, the return to absolutism of the "Divine Right of Kings" is on our door steps. The only difference is the Kings of the 21st century are those with the most money. They can do whatever they want and dare we say anything or do anything to stop them? they think not because all they will do is turn around and buy out the entity that opposes them. It is a sorrowful place for the world to turn back to-and think, it is all over greed!
    • Raji Gogulapati
    Juggling and struggling to get to "assignments/ tasks" have become the norm of the job roles and responsibilities in a highly connected world. I am quite sure that the people who heavily multi-task with devices on a regular basis are loosing focus on areas that need attention. This may be the subject of neurologists/brain doctors who can provide more evidence on potential hazards caused due to the "strained" brain of a worker who handles "n" number of tasks/devices/topics at a given time.
    I would re-frame the second question to draw attention to more on the trends observed in organizations, businesses. It is not about obsession with using technologies. It is about obsession for "numbers" in the business sense. Factory/ industry workers would work eight hour shifts to get the work done through out the day (24 hours, 3 shifts, three sets of workers). An individual worker in the information age seems to work 24/7. Outsourcing has created two sides of the "work" story. Graveyard shifts have become common for most people involved.

    The progress with technologies is not to be blamed. Their potential is being misused.
    • Yadeed Lobo
    The fundamental concept is respect for ourselves , our time and for other people.

    The concept of "requisite connectivity" by Darl Kolb is quite pertinent. How do we develop the right amount of connectivity , not too much nor too little?

    And is work the most thing? Or is family more important? The answer lies in the balance and knowing when to switch off. Defined times to check and respond to emails is one solution.

    I guess we should have a mandated switch off period. They provide valuable inspiration especially when tackling tough challenges .Einstein's words "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them". Maybe because sometimes we need to give thinking a break.