Picture this: You’re enjoying time with friends on a Saturday night when you get an alert on your phone. It’s your supervising attorney, reminding you of an upcoming deadline in an important case. Just like that, your work anxieties prance to the forefront of your mind.
This is the new reality. Smartphones have made our lives easier in myriad ways, but they’ve also blurred the line between our home and work lives. Even if you don’t respond to your supervisor, his or her text has momentarily increased your blood pressure and anxiety and decreased your ability to be in the moment with your friends.
Believe it or not, there was a time when employers managed just fine without having 24/7 access to their employees. Of course, we occasionally worked late to meet a deadline, but there wasn’t a constant expectation that someone could track you down during your off time to ask you a work-related question.
Our work and personal lives are no longer divided by clearly defined boundaries, and that’s partly on you. It’s time to set some boundaries and unplug from the office. Too many of my colleagues voluntarily have their work email linked to their phone, and almost all of them find it stressful.
Just because we have the technology to be constantly plugged into work doesn’t mean we should be. Having downtime, family time, friend time, pet time, or you time is essential to your mental health.
In July 2016, Colorado State University published a study titled, “Exhausted But Unable to Disconnect: After-Hours Email, Work-Family Balance and Identification.” The study found that it’s not just the amount of time spent on work but the “anticipatory stress and expectation” of answering after-hours emails that is draining employees.
So how do you break the habit?
Get Your Work Email Off Your Phone
For most of us, there’s no reason to check work emails when we’re offsite. Although clients and attorneys we work with might like to have constant access to us, it’s not really necessary. Almost every problem can wait until the next business day.
The next time your boss texts you with a non-urgent question that can be addressed the next day, ignore it. When you get to the office the next workday, respond to their text with an email. Think of it as a training exercise. It may take your supervisor a while to get used to, but if you stick with it, not responding immediately will work.
Allow yourself to use your off time to recharge. Engage with the world and with your friends. Your career won’t suffer. In fact, you may become a better employee when you allow yourself to have a personal life uninterrupted by your work life.
Remember: The bulk of our weekday time is spent at work, use those few remaining hours before bedtime to completely disengage from your workday world.
About the author:
Karin Buckley is a paralegal at Winter & Ross and Vice-Chair of BASF’s Paralegal Section. She cohabitates with an ornery cat named Midge in scenic West Oakland.