We have talked in the past about whether use of social media during the workday increases employee productivity (see Time Suck or Morale Booster? How Does Social Media Impact Employee Productivity?)  The question of technology and productivity was recently addressed in a little different light by Randstad, a global provider of HR and staffing services in its most recent Employee Engagement Index survey (see Does 24/7 Connectivity Equal Increased Productivity?).  The survey looks at whether constant connectivity through technology equates to greater productivity for women workers.  The survey shows that 42 percent of women and 47 percent of men believe that it is increasingly difficult to disconnect from work while at home.  The majority (68 percent) of women and (59 percent) of men also did not believe that the work/home connectivity had increased their productivity.

“As enhanced technologies and increased access to information continues to blur the lines between our professional and personal lives, many workers mistake being busy for being productive,” said Linda Galipeau, Randstad CEO of North America.  “These are two very different concepts that when looked at from an organizational standpoint – could have serious implications for a company’s bottom line.  We are only productive if we’re producing the results that are most impactful to our goals.  Being that we live in a multi-tasking world, it is important to work smarter and hone in on those high-impact efforts that will create more meaningful results.  This is incredibility important, especially as women and men can now perform their jobs from almost anywhere.”

So what does this actually mean for you and me?

Whether men or women, we all certainly fall into the trap of a 24/7 work environment.   I am sure you would agree that the clock is hard to turn off – whether at 5:00 p.m. on a regular workday, or while on “vacation” with the family.   The reality is that technology has enhanced connectivity and increased the expectation of instant communication – peer to peer, business to client, supervisor to employee.  Good or bad, business now moves at a rapid pace.  Technology shapes our workplace and drives continuous access to the office.  “There’s also a downside to this culture because sometimes workers feel that in such a fast-moving environment, they’re obligated to be available at all times and that by disconnecting, you risk falling behind at work.”  Kristin Kelley, Randstad’s executive vice president for marketing reported to the Boston Globe, Does technology make us more productive workers?.  But in the end, technology, like all things intense, can (if you let it) lead to burn-out, undue stress, health and wellness issues, and a poor work/life balance. 

Can we unplug?

Certainly – the choice is ours.  We, and I am as guilty as anyone, must recognize that by disconnecting once in a while we will achieve a greater work/life balance.  When we do – we recognize that balance produces better work and home relationships, lowers the intensity of the work day, along with our stress levels, and refocuses our efforts at work (making the work we do more productive).  Disconnecting, however, proves incredibly difficult to achieve.  It’s easy to say I am not going to answer that work email at night, or look to see who is calling on a Saturday.  The difficult part, like any addiction, is to put the proverbial rubber to the road.  I try – admittedly only sometimes.  But, more often than not, I answer that email, check that phone message, or see who just texted in the middle of the night – because my phone is right next to my bed.   I am bound by and “addicted” to the power of instant communication.  But the question remains whether the instant communication actually increases productivity, or whether I am simply lost in a world of “constant partial attention” (a term introduced to me by one of my clients, Paul DeBettignies, IT Recruiter and author of the Minnesota Headhunter Blog.)  It’s a good question to ponder.

So, how do you unplug?  When you do, does it increase your productivity and your work/life balance?