Archives for category: Awareness

Imagine a work day where your smart phone keeps standard work hours — turns on when you begin working and off it goes as you head home for the evening. Volkswagen did more than just imagine this when its German operation recently adopted a policy that turns on its email servers a half hour before the work day begins and turns it off a half-hour after the day ends (policy applies to all non-managerial blackberry users).

According to an article in Wired magazine online, Volkswagen’s intention is improve worker well-being by promoting a work culture where people should not be expected to work or be reached at all hours of the day. AMEN!

Blackberries, iPhones and their smart phone competitors keep us constantly wired, so the difference between work and play is increasingly blurred.

It has become widely accepted that for a telemarketer to call during dinner-time or at night is intrusive, if not illegal in some places, so why not a similar sentiment toward a client or co-worker that can’t wait until the morning to send a message? The task at hand probably won’t get done any sooner because we are aware of it at 11 P.M. instead of 8 A.M. the next day. The world will also likely not come to an end because we are not available to answer messages at all hours of the night.

I would venture to call the Volkswagen decision revolutionary by US standards, yet in uber efficient Germany, it is possible? The policy indicates a sensitivity to worker quality of life in a digital world that should really be present in some form in every company.

I’m sure much of the counter argument revolves around how this stunts productivity, but does it really? There are endless studies that show how workers waste at least 25-30% of their time at work messing around on the Internet for personal reasons anyway. Why not make the work day more efficient and our off-hours genuinely preserved for leisure?

So at the end of the work day, what’s more important? Reading emails during dinner or spending time with your kids? Answering questions on a Blackberry that can wait until the morning or taking a jog, cooking a proper meal, watching a movie with a friend? It seems like the answer should be pretty obvious for the non-workaholics out there, but then again, not everyone loves to log off!

Logging out now…

For those out there with exploding inboxes taking up way too much of your time, check out TED’s Chris Anderson’s Email Charter. I don’t agree with everything written there or the overall concept of such curt email etiquette, but I certainly agree with #10:

10. Disconnect!
If we all agreed to spend less time doing email, we’d all get less email! Consider calendaring half-days at work where you can’t go online. Or a commitment to email-free weekends. Or an ‘auto-response’ that references this charter. And don’t forget to smell the roses.

For the jet-setting types running organizations and toting a smart phone into the toilet just to clean out their inbox, the Email Charter probably has worthy application.

The prevailing idea is that shorter, direct, more thoughtful emails are more efficient and easier to respond to. Anderson makes a great reference to Mark Twain in this Fast Company article about the charter: Twain once apologized in a letter, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Then again, maybe the charter is simply a way to excuse big bosses like Mr. Anderson for being jerks in their emails by writing next to nothing in response or nothing at all.

A few other pointers that weren’t included in the Charter are unsubscribing from useless newsletters, using tools like Google’s Priority Inbox to sort mail more efficiently, turning email off on vacation, or how about throwing that smart phone in the garbage disposal!

In any case, less time using e-mail can only be a good thing, so take a look at the Charter and apply what works for you — and add my #11 to the list, “be kind and courteous even if it takes an extra four seconds.”

Logging out now…

Even the doctors agree. Turning off electronics might make you have a better day. Or so they say over at WebMD in the short advice article 10 Ways to Improve your Day in Just 5 Minutes.

#9 on the list states >>  Turn off your electronics. Just because we live in a wired world doesn’t mean you need to stay connected every minute of every single day. Staring at computer screens and electronics all day long can zap your energy and encourage inactivity. So log off your email, phones, and Internet (yes, social networking web sites count, too). This is especially important to allow you to unwind and relax before bed.

Couldn’t agree more. Interesting the part about logging off before going to bed. Not a bad tip to promise yourself at least a quiet hour just before hitting the hay. Made me realize I naturally adhere to an “after 8” rule where the computer is almost always off by 8 p.m. or earlier. That’s some sacred time there for reading, watching a movie, the late news, a glass of wine, a walk with the dog or just playing a game before hitting the hay.

The rest of the list was pretty good too, besides the making the bed bit. I’m not convinced fixing up the pillows will really improve my day all that much. But who would think to sniff a lemon when the going gets tough. The wise ol’ Japanese found that they have anti-inflammatory properties and may fight stress. Check out this post for a few thoughts about that.

Logging out now.

I certainly wouldn’t be the first to talk about cell phone etiquette issues, but there is a point where people cruise right past bad etiquette to complete ridiculousness and I can’t help but take notice. It’s probably defined right around that moment when you’re in the public bathroom listening to the person in the stall next to you talk to her best friend about last night’s debaucheries.

It’s one thing to utilize the necessary toilet time in the privacy of your own home in order to check email, browse the Web or play a round of electronic Yahtzee! – in fact not a bad idea at all – but a public restroom? Seriously?

If there is ever a right time to log out, it has got to be while relieving oneself  in public. And who really wants to be identified with the smell next door anyway?

I do understand the value of these little gadgets that keep us wired all the time and logged into the latest news, posts, emails, and whatever else determines us to be as up-to-date as possible, but there has got to be an instant where some people stop themselves from saying “Gee, I have to go to the bathroom, maybe NOW I’ll call up my mother while in the public restroom and talk about her cancer.”

The point: take a moment to rethink when, where and how that gadget of a cellphone demands time in your life and the time of strangers around you.

Do I need to even mention the risk of OOPS! that toilet just had your phone for lunch?!?

The people at cellphones.org seem to have nailed down the basics with their Cell Phone Etiquette chart.

Logging out now.

It isn’t a stretch to assume that many of the people who want to limit their connectivity might be the same people who are concerned about privacy online as well. Part of what getting offline does is bring us back to who we are as people without a gadget in our hand or sitting before us. What lack of privacy online does is creates avenues for companies to influence who we are by picking out what music we might like or books we might want to read based on some computer algorithm. Feeling the need to log out could be related to wanting to log out of the person that Google or Facebook think you are.  

So when surfing the Internet recently I started noticing eerily pointed information about friends of mine liking this or that relative to the site I was visiting. I can’t say I’m really interested in what so-and-so who “friended” me on facebook that I haven’t spoken to since 1991 thinks about where I’m surfing the web and what I’m buying or reading online today.

How in the world did they get that information about who my facebook connections are and why are they telling me what they like? Sure enough, I was recently alerted to a mysterious setting that had been automatically enabled in my facebook Account.

It is a privacy setting that has been around since April of this year called “Instant Personalization” which shares data with non-Facebook websites and is automatically set to “enable.”

I guess I’ve been snoozing on this one, but slowly facebook has been adding more and more sites to its list of web sites it shares data with. Obviously among them ones that I have been using lately.

Ummm… excuse me, but Mr. CEO Zuckerberg at Facebook, please don’t go enabling things without asking me first. I’m sure your brilliant programming skills could have come up with a way to ask me before green lighting the whole lot of us to share info we don’t want to share!

Here are a few random links with more thoughts on the whole thing:
Facebook Must Make “Instant Personalization” Opt-In Immediately
Facebook Expands Instant Personalization with Rotten Tomatoes
Disable Facebook’s “Instant Personalization”

So, if like me, you missed the hullabaloo over this, here are directions to protect your privacy (not to mention individuality). I wonder if Google has similar settings where I can stop sharing the info I write in my e-mails?

Logging out now.