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Technology has opened up new ways of working but there’s a danger we become smartphone slaves
For lots of parents it’s half-term holidays next week. (Trust me, I know it’s not half-term in Scotland. I grew up there and it killed me going to school knowing Why Don’t You was on the telly).
A school holiday means one of two things – a childcare nightmare or an opportunity to take time off from work and switch off.
This second option came up during our first workingdads Facebook chat this week. Just how do you switch off if you’re working flexibly? Should you be always on? If you are available all hours are you able to give your full attention to your family or indeed your own mental health? And what’s the best way to switch off?
The answer to that last question is simple according to one of the people who joined the conversation – put your phone in a drawer. As so often, the simple ideas are the best. Stepping away from your mobile is undoubtedly the most straightforward solution. They are the most wonderful invention – particularly for parents since they can keep you in contact with the outside world when you’re cooped up doing childcare or they can keep your kids quiet with the Cbeebies app when you’re in the outside world with fractious offspring. But we mustn’t become slaves to our smartphones. Putting your mobile out of reach will allow you to fully engage with the adventures of Lego Ant-Man that you are playing out with your children.
If you are dealing with emails after putting the kids to bed that begs questions about how you’re working.
If it’s by choice that’s fine. One of the knacks to making flexible working a success is knowing yourself and when you work best. Some folk’s brains click straight into gear first thing and working for a few hours before the school run is productive. Others take a bit of warming up and perhaps it’s only once the household tasks are dispatched that the creative juices can flow.
But if you’re working into the night and resenting it then something’s up and it’s probably worth visiting how and when you work, perhaps with the help of a coach who can help you understand more about your strengths and weaknesses. It may be money well spent.
Workplace culture comes into the mix too. It’s easier to switch off if you know you’ve done a job well and your bosses support you, trust you, and understand there are other demands on your time. If you spend half term worrying what’s being said about you in the office in your absence and concerned that you’ll be overloaded upon your return then that’s no good. The break ought to offer an opportunity to take stock and make changes.
The great benefit of working flexibly or part-time is being around for your loved ones, not missing out on both the magic moments but also the ordinary ebb and flow of family life. But if you’re always worrying about WhatsApp or panicking about paperwork they you can’t be totally in the domestic sphere.
It’s a very modern problem – the same technology that makes it possible to work from home can turn home into a workplace when you don’t want it to.
We got some good ideas and suggestions on the Facebook chat but I’m keen to hear more.
How do you switch off when you walk out of your workplace either for a holiday or just on a weekday evening? Please share your thoughts in the comments.