Friday, April 11, 2014

A new labor agreement in France means that employees must ignore their bosses’ work emails once they are out of the office and relaxing at home – even on their smartphones.

You can’t get a better excuse for ignoring your boss than “Sorry, it’s against the law.”

But the French really do get it. Technology is constantly speeding up the pace of everyday life, expecting more time and output from every employee, and doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon. What was once called “the work/life balance” has been taken over by the “work/life blur” and is soon to be known as just “life” for the generations who can’t even remember a time that they couldn't use their mobile devices for both work and personal reasons.

This debate is nothing new, and the pros and cons of using portable devices to work at any given moment are well known. Yes, it is easy to schedule your work with more flexibility around personal commitments, but still contributing towards a blurring reality between work and personal time. And yes, there is always the threat that one may never really “shut off” from work at all (that’s what “life” just might look like).

But how productive could this really be?

When was the last time you came up with a great idea while you were working from your laptop or smartphone? My guess is, you can’t remember. Because the answer is probably Never. 

The funny thing about working from portable devices for all hours of the day is that, while it may seem to enhance productivity, it actually succeeds at the opposite. By continuously responding to emails and messages about what other people want, and what other people need, working from these devices actually forces you to work re-actively instead of proactively. When the expectation is for you to always be available to respond and react to other people’s needs, it limits you from thinking in proactive ways, from completing tasks and learning skills that actually make you a more productive and valuable employee.

See? The French totally get it. 

 Here are a few ways that I like to unplug from work:

- Hit the gym – Hitting the gym is a great way to sweat out all frustrations. I  typically use this time to listen to my favorite podcasts and catch up on any news I might have missed. Or on the flip side, turn up some old-school Missy Elliot. 

- Making Jewelry - Making jewelry is my main creative outlet. I find that working with my hands, and making decisions based on colors and shapes is a relaxing way to break from the mental demands of work. 

- Having a drink outdoors – Now, I don’t want to promote alcohol consumption as the best way to unplug from work…but the snow is finally gone! I love being outside, so on a nice summer night you can find me, beer in hand,  lounging on a big Adirondack chair with no portable devices in sight. C’est la vie!

How do you unplug from work?