Executive Health: Open all hours

It wasn’t too long ago that being ‘on call’ was just for medical professionals. Fast forward 20 years and senior employees in range of industries and roles are expected to be available to their employer at all times of the day and night.
In survey released by recruitment firm Ranstad in March, three out of 10 New Zealand employees said their employer expected them to be available 24/7.
Where we were once prepared to wait days for document to be posted, emails are now expected to be replied to within hours – if not minutes. This ‘speeding up’ is also changing business culture. Thirty-one percent of those in the Ranstad survey were not bothered by people answering calls or emails during business meetings, while 39 percent feel they ‘fall short’ if unable to respond immediately.
Another change in the working landscape is the sheer volume of information we are expected to process. Where once information was relayed through phone or face-to-face conversation, we now have endless email trails, Twitter tweets, Facebook comments and blogs.
These influences are behind an emerging trend of ‘work-life blend’. This is new approach to lifestyle management in which the boundaries between work and private life are blurred.
This trend signals something of 180-degree turn from the once holy grail of ‘work-life balance’. According to the Department of Labour, work-life balance is about effectively managing the juggling act between paid work and other activities that are important to us – including spending time with friends and family, taking part in sport and recreation, volunteering or undertaking further study.
There’s school of thought that keeping up this juggling act – and finding blocks of time for all these activities – is unrealistic, and in itself source of frustration and stress that can impact our health.
For many of us, blending is reality. The Ranstad survey found 44 percent of employees surveyed handled private matters at work and 56 percent handled work-related matters at home. Whether the employees were freely doing so in agreement with their employer, and making conscious choice to let work and life blend, was not explored.
Work-life blend may not be for everyone. How well we cope mentally with this new approach may depend somewhat on our comfort with technology and ability to quickly process information.
Recent research commissioned by the British Psychological Society found that the stress levels of 100 professionals increased based on the number of times they checked their texts and email.
According to BusinessWeek, work-life blending is more likely to be favoured by Generation Y who, having grown up with technology, have developed an in-built ability to manage the fast and endless flow of information.
Despite this, there is also an emerging resistance to ‘on-call’ expectations. Last December, the Brazilian government passed legislation enabling workers to request overtime for work emails answered out of hours. In the same month, German car giant Volkswagen formed an agreement with workers to switch off Blackberry work emails after hours.
Rather than let digital technology rule your roost, try these strategies:
• Set expectations around your responsiveness and availability with your employer, colleagues and employees. Let them know the rules – eg, I won’t be looking at emails during the weekends or after 6pm at night.
• Create time during the day when you ignore phone calls and email, and turn off the mobile or smart device for an hour. Switch off during meetings and check messages at defined intervals.
• Try an email, Twitter or Facebook ‘free’ day – you’ll be amazed at the results.
• Prioritise. Unless you’re doctor on call, many things truly can wait until the morning. M

Peter Tynan is chief executive of Southern Cross Health Society.

Visited 4 times, 1 visit(s) today
Close Search Window