Turning “Work” Off

Let’s get a few things straight:

I love my career.

I love technology.

I love social media.

What I struggle with is setting boundaries of when I am and am not available. I started working when I was 16. That was 22 years ago. Back then, cell phones were analog and huge. No one called you. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I only had that phone for potential emergencies when I was on the road.

Fast Forward: I have answered my phone during a long-planned family vacation in Sea World to deal with a work crisis that could have been delegated to someone else. I have answered emails while chaperoning a field trip to the zoo. My text alerts go off during dinner, to the point that my 7-year old asks, “That’s probably work, Mama. Do you need me to bring your phone to you?”. Far too many drive-time commutes have been spent working. And I know I’m not alone.

It seems after-hours calls, texts and emails are the norm for businesses now, and anything other than immediate responses is viewed as negligence. But as a culture, we’re suffering from being available all the time. We’re being paid for 40-hour work weeks, but somehow we’re expected to be on-call 24-7. Somehow calling in sick has turned into working from home.

Trust me, it’s hard to set those work time versus my personal time boundaries. Especially when you’re worked longer than you’ve had relationships, families or friends. For years, my career was my focus. I matured along with the technology, and being more accessible appeared to make me more productive, a go-getter, dare I say it- even a better boss.

It was okay until it wasn’t. I remember my breaking point just last year, receiving an unnecessary call from an employee at 6 AM on a Saturday, when I was on maternity leave. I was more abrupt than I like to be, and as I hung up it dawned on me. People will do what you allow them to do. And it will continue until you tell them differently.

In the year since that call, I’ve been slowly learning and setting boundaries for myself and my family. Boundaries like making sure my phone sleeps across the house from me and doesn’t get a seat at the dinner table. Boundaries like not responding to all calls/texts/emails immediately, and taking social media breaks one day a week, even having conversations about what constitutes an emergency with family members and employees. Case in point: my husband stays at home with our kids during the day, but we’ve had to train people that he’s busy, too- not available all day every day, just because he’s home.

This full-time accessibility crept into our lives and it’s not a quick fix to make changes. The first step is becoming aware, and starting to notice what does and doesn’t work for you, your family, and your well-being. Once we know what works and what doesn’t, then we can start brainstorming little changes. I can almost guarantee that just a little more time of being “off” when you’re “off” will make a world of difference in ways you can’t even imagine. Who doesn’t need more time to laugh, or rest, or pray?

Adrienne Dalaly, Stellar Day Blog