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Work Anytime, Anywhere.
A gift. And a curse.
Do you remember 20 years ago, we did not have mobile phones? To reach someone, you called them on a landline. Not everyone had one of those.
There were times when you popped over to your friend's place but they wouldn't be there.
You had to stop and ask for directions to a place you had not been to.
What's a phone?
Technology has changed our lives at a deep level. For the better. For the most part. You can reach anyone at anytime because their phone moves with them. You don't need to interact with a human being if you don't want to - Google Maps will give you reasonable directions.
Sooner or later, the concept of a phone might become redundant. We will be able to communicate with anyone with embedded technology. We will be able to read texts and emails, see maps augmented in our visual fields.
No more 9-5
As technology has become pervasive and with a cataclysmic event (the pandemic), we've seen a paradigm shift in culture. Working from home has become common-place. Working at any time, rather than a fixed 9-5 is a reality.
These sound great and can be. You can be wherever you want and work out of there. You can start your day early and end your day early, and design your schedule as it suits you.
But the dark side of everything needs vigilance. The doom scrolling, the endless notifications, the FOMO - all wreak havoc on our senses. If you are always reachable, you have to answer the phone anytime or respond to texts and emails within a short window.
If you can work from anywhere in the world and if you can work with people anywhere in the world, the concept of a day becomes fuzzier.
Too much of anything is bad for you. Even water.
Always on, always reachable, always accessible has become a curse. That we need articles like these to provide a contrarian view.
If you can work anytime, it leads to working all the time.
You might think it is just five minutes to check email while you are eating dinner.
Or take a call at 11 pm because that's the time that overlaps everyone's timezones the best (except yours.) You tell yourself that the advantage is you can switch off whenever you want, or work from Goa.
But barring the 17 people who seem to be doing this, or at least talking about it on social media, the rest of us are stuck at home. With a worse routine than ever before.
The 9-5 has become more fluid and fuzzy.
The switching off has become "kinda off". You remember we used to switch TVs off before? Now, we put them on standby. We are all on standby.
The context switching, the not switching off, the "I'll take a work call during dinner" or "Answer a couple of emails while chilling with the family". These should send the alarm bells ringing.
Take the power back!
It might not be possible to go back to the 9-5.
But what worked well? Boundaries. Less disturbance. Focus.
What hasn't worked well? Calls at any time. Notifications that gnaw at you. An amorphous routine and day.
As always, the solution is somewhere in the middle. Your middle. Not the absolute middle.
Too much of anything is sucky. Don't think so? Eat chocolate ice-cream (or pizza) for breakfast, lunch, dinner for a week and let me know.
Don't accept societal pressure. See for yourself. Figure out what works for you and what does not.