Finding a balance, with technology

Last week I contemplated the turning off of the internet (link), and all its potential impacts. A perceived upside would be the end of email, the smartphone, and for most a return to a clearer equilibrium between our professional and personal lives.

Technological innovation has, without doubt, caused a constant shuffling (perhaps compromise) of our work and play time. Technology is convenient, isn’t it? Work anywhere, anytime, all the time, check your email, check your email again, surf Facebook, check who is checking you out LinkedIn, etc. However, it also plays on our anxieties and insecurities. In this blur, if you are an ‘always on’ person, you may be finding it hard to disconnect and relax. I often say, we are ‘socially more connected, but emotionally less connected’.

When thinking about mobile technology in our lives, it’s difficult to imagine not using it. This is a Faustian bargain, it gives us something important but it takes something that is important in return. In the case mobile technology, we’ve gained a huge amount of flexibility, networking capability, instant access to knowledge (Google it!). The price to pay is our own instant availability, the same way we’d expect other people and resources to be. It has made accomplishing tasks and communication much faster – good thing; but it has made accomplishing tasks and communication much faster – bad thing. On the one hand, you get things done more efficiently; on the other, we are expected to respond instantaneously.

There is a positive to technology. Highly connected technology can build the foundation for a better work life balance (err, Kai, what?). The Institute for the Future(clever people that think of the future) argues that rather than being ‘always on’, workers can use evolving technology to work more productively and achieve better results in a shorter time. This will set people free “from many of the fixed time, location, and work flow constraints that typify a traditional job. Mobile digital networks and collaboration software can help individuals create a better flow between work and everyday life – ideally enabling anyone to ‘escape the 9–5, live anywhere, and outsource your life’.” Hurrah, we are saved?!

Any disruptive technology affects our behaviour in a way it is difficult to ever foresee. However, in my opinion, what is clear is that we are the real part of the work life balance debate. We are the ones that can’t switch off. We can’t relax. We want to be perfectionists. Is this technology’s fault? The question isn’t if technology is the good or bad buy. It is up to us to define how we use and integrate it, and set the balance of our own lives.

I am off for a walk, no music, no phone – just my mind.

Thanks for reading.

Kai

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