Everyone is attached by the umbilical cord of digital technology and being remote doesn’t make a difference to our ability to work. But should it? Digital burnout, work life balance and time to yourself – how does that work for you?

Business has changed so much over the past 20-30 years – remote working was frowned upon, the culture was one where ‘we need you here!’. I recall in my finance days having phone lines installed into my house so that I could work remotely from the office, it was a very big thing for the company to ‘allow’ and ‘trust’ members of the team to be working away from the main office where control and discipline was easier to enforce.

Has that changed now for the better or worse?

Clearly digital overload and addiction is a serious challenge for a sensible work life balance in any career. How many carry two phones, one business one personal plus a tablet or laptop, the umbilical cord is very much attached. Add to that the amazing ability for everything to be accessible from the cloud – literally everything. I’m not going to talk about cyber security and vulnerability here but focus on the personal intrusion that this can create.

We are at the behest of the digital master. Whoever sets the protocols and processes is in charge, the service level agreements detailing how and when we should respond to queries and challenges all dictate how we should be working. Being in the office, stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway or on holiday we are potentially always on call! Being remote doesn’t make any difference!

From the business perspective, best practice and best possible customer service can be delivered promptly and personally whenever required, as set out in the business operations manual. If staff fail to adhere to what is required they can be moved on swiftly as all the evidence is there of non-conforming or failure to deliver. I recall that training and nurturing quote – ‘what happens if we invest in our staff and then they leave vs what if we don’t invest in them and they stay!’ Performance and productivity can be closely monitored where ever the staff are based, be that head office, regional office or based from home the business knows what is going on.

Professional performance has always been the focus of the committed and diligent employee, motivated manager or impassioned business owner. With that in mind being Remote shouldn’t make a difference it’s just the way of the world going forward and technology is making that easier and more helpful.

Our greatest challenge now is to manage the remote environment so that it doesn’t have negative effects on both employee or business owner alike. Consider the last time you had total remoteness, no digital interaction or electronic screens to distract or entertain you. At that point, something changes.

I recall a holiday I went on a few years ago to New Foundland off the East coast of Canada – stunning, beautiful and totally remote. At that time when I walked of the plane and turned on my mobile I found no service for my provider – I had two weeks in digital isolation. For the first two days I twitched and stressed, managed to arrange access via the main reception to check in with the office in case of an emergency – after that I totally relaxed into what was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. It took an extreme remoteness to allow me to truly reconnect with my family, reboot my mental being and return a very motivated person. (I am sure there are still pockets on Newfie where this is the case but there’s not many of them left)

There are times when positive isolation really can help the mind body and soul – that bit of controlled remoteness to enable a reboot or some mental separation. If you have just the one phone would a second for personal use allow you to switch off more effectively at the weekend? Answering emails at 11pm or 5.30am while might be efficient it’s not good for you long term. If you need help assessing where you can shave your digital dependency or enjoy being remote then ask for help – this is a habit after all, being available 24/7 is a habit – having a balanced fun life is also a habit and if that is not the case it’s a target!

1 Comment

  1. You are a man after my own heart. Heartfelt and honest article. Loved this article Mike. You will have to come and experience the remoteness of living on an island! See you soon

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