“I am out of the office and will respond on my return.”
Everyone knows this automated email response is often a white lie. Personally, I am one of the first to break it. I get comfort from knowing I am always logged in. My mobile, iPad and laptop all sleep next to me and my late-night reading consists of Twitter feeds and online conversations.
But I am not alone: the firewall between our work and home lives is disintegrating fast. A recent survey by Forbes Insights revealed that a mere 3% of respondents didn’t send or receive emails while on holiday; another study by researchers in the United States found that it may be harder to resist checking emails and social media than it is to resist cigarettes or alcohol. These days technology rules our lives and our dependence on it can make it impossible to switch off. There is even a new term – ‘nomophobia’ – to describe our addiction.
Things changed for me when I joined SilverDoor and discovered, prior to my holiday, the strict work/life balance policy enforced. While on holiday employees don’t have access to emails and cannot be contacted by other members of staff. Panic set in: what was I to do? Just lie idle? What would I do on the beach without scrolling through emails, tweeting or updating Google+, Pinterest and Facebook – read a book? During previous holidays my Blackberry had been tight in hand, reassuring me that I was always needed.
As my holiday approached, I realised I had two choices. I could either fret over what was going to happen in my absence, or embrace the detox full on and go cold turkey. I opted for the latter.
Three days in and like any junkie I broke out in a cold sweat, sending messages to colleagues and imagining the sort of inbox I’d return to. But as work and my online world slowly receded, the real world in front of me came into sharper focus. I relaxed, enjoyed the company of my family and friends and truly switched off.
Upon my return to work my inbox was full, but most emails had been taken care of by my colleagues and I realised the point of the policy. My time away allowed me to feel rejuvenated and I came back to work ready to tackle the industry with fervour once again. While it hasn’t cured me of my internet addiction, it made me realise how reliant we’ve become on instant online gratification – emails instantly answered, news shared across time zones in the time it takes to write a tweet.
I now plan to embrace my SilverDoor-imposed digital detox and make it a once-yearly opportunity to defrag my brain and reassess what’s really important.
The wired world can manage perfectly well without me.