Working Weekends: What Technology has Done to Our Free Time

by cindybrugge

For generations before us, people survived the workweek just to get to 5 p.m. on Friday, so that they could come home, flop onto the couch and not move until Monday morning. In today’s world, the work environment has provided a “more flexible” environment that allows us the freedom to take our work home with us. Technology has opened numerous doors to make our work more portable and employers are integrating these techniques to the best of their ability, but at what cost?

With this new adaptable work atmosphere, it can lead to a lot of new territory that employees may not have initially anticipated. Questions start to arise. Do I have to be available just because I have a company cell phone? If I receive an email at 11:30 p.m. am I expected to answer it before morning? Am I allowed to say that no one can contact me on the weekends or will I be fired for drawing that line?

These questions have gone unanswered for many individuals and then their 40-hour workweek quickly expands to accommodate the numerous virtual tasks that they take home. Weekends were created to allow individuals the opportunity to spend time with family and studies have shown that time away from work is beneficial to mental health. We need time to relax with friends and family. However with online file systems and smart phones that can complete nearly any task, an entire office can fit in the back pocket of a pair of jeans and it can make that relaxing close to impossible.

How can you help your employees set boundaries that make for a fair working environment when they leave the office? Ask them these questions and make some decisions based on their answers.

  1. Would you be available to work from home occasionally?
  2. When is it a good time to contact you? (If they say “anytime,” that is a red flag. Encourage them to take time with family and have “off hours.” Even if it’s a little inconvenient for you, they will respect you for valuing their free time.)
  3. What is the best way to reach you?
  4. How quick of a turnaround should I expect on your communication?

After you receive this information, store it in their company paperwork and respect their answers. After all, the best way to earn respect is to give it and the best way to respect someone is to recognize that their time is valuable and not something that they choose to waste. These answers are a surefire way to reinstate stability in the virtual workplace.