Since the mobile lifestyle and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs arrived in the workplace, it’s never been easier to work on the go and stay connected to the office. That’s also the problem. It is possible to be “too connected,” and we’re starting to hit critical mass. The mobile revolution has killed the 9-to-5 workday, along with whatever work-life balance you hoped to achieve.
Here are a few signs that mobile technology has gotten out of hand:
- A California college student was reported missing when she stopped responding to texts and social media.
- Someone saw the need to start a National Day of Unplugging.
- Offices are running into issues like shadow IT, which is when employees bypass their company’s IT department, and shadow tasking, where employees handle work during personal hours and personal tasks during work hours.
- There are now digital detox centers to treat addictions to technology.
- And now there’s FOMO: the crippling fear that you’re missing out on something. (Never heard of FOMO? Well, now you’re officially missing out. How does it feel? Terrible, I hope.)
In the midst of this overwhelming technological surge, there is one harsh truth glaring us in the face: the incursion of mobile technology is entirely voluntary. You can take steps to manage your mobile lifestyle and keep the digital office at bay.
#1. Set boundaries.
Assign specific times away from your digital tether, like immediately after work, or two hours before you go to sleep. Put the phone or tablet away and resist that powerful urge to check for messages! (FYI: Nearly 70 percent of cellphone owners check their phones for messages or calls even when there hasn’t been a ring or buzz to alert them!)
#2. Spread the word.
Your digital boundaries are a goal, and like any goal, it’s good to build a support group—both to encourage you and hold you accountable. Tell people your plans and ask them to help you keep them.
#3. Of course there’s an app for that.
#4. Follow the three-second rule.
Take command of your email inbox with the three-second rule. After opening an email on your device, take three seconds to decide what to do with it: archive it, delete it, move it to a folder? Decide right then and get it out of your inbox.
#5. Delete emails while you’re on vacation.
Another way to steer clear of your mobile devices when you should be relaxing is to set up your email filters to delete any incoming messages, or to automatically archive them. Craft your out-of-office notice (here are some fun ones to inspire you) so it notifies anyone who emails you that their message has been deleted and that they should re-send it after your return date. This keeps you from having to sift through a mountain of emails when you get back to the office, and should kill any urge you may feel to check your work email during your vacation.
#6. Don’t give out your personal phone number.
Modern offices deploy mobile-friendly phone systems like Jive that offer Find Me/Follow Me settings. With Find Me/Follow Me, you can set your office number to also ring your cell or home phone, either simultaneously or sequentially. That way, you can hand customers just one number and they can reach you on your terms, without you having to surrender your personal phone numbers.
#7. Avoid phantom vibration syndrome.
Also called hypovibochondria or ring-xiety, phantom vibration syndrome is the tingle you feel when you think your phone is ringing on silent, but it’s actually not. The problem is when you feel a phantom vibration and whip out your phone. Even without a call or message there, you can get drawn into compulsively checking emails, messages, etc. To avoid this, put your phone in a bag or backpack. That way, even if you suffer from phantom vibration, your phone isn’t within easy reach, and you’ve got a better chance of stopping yourself.
#8. Make it a game.
For example, some people have started a game called “phone stacking.” When you go out to eat with friends, put your phone on the table. Invite your friends to stack their phones on top. You all leave them there for the duration of the meal. Whoever reaches for his or her phone first has to pick up the tab for everyone.
#9. Keep it out of the bedroom.
Nearly two out of three adults sleep with a mobile device next to their bed, which is a problem once you realize the light from you digital gadget can interfere with your ability to fall asleep, and the effectiveness of the sleep you do get. So put the phone or tablet in a different room for the night.
#10. Go retro.
If you use your phone to wake yourself up in the morning, go buy an alarm clock. Watch movies on the TV instead of your device. Sure, you bought the mobile device to replace these things, but you can’t check your message, emails, or calendar using an alarm clock or TV. So, where you can, go retro.
This isn’t a call to disown your smartphone. There’s no reason to revert back to 1995 levels of technology, scrap BYOD, and flee screaming from the mobile office. But part of being truly tech-savvy is setting reasonable limits and reaching a satisfying work-life balance.