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Don’t Blow a Circuit

Electronic devices are wonderful!  They enable us to be connected, present, and aware of everything 24/7 if we want it that way.  The convenience is something we believe we need like a fish needs water and a plant needs light.  We don’t like to be unplugged because we might miss something.

To Plug-in or Unplug; That is the Decision

But what is a healthy “plugged-in” lifestyle for a manager?  Is there a point when too many plugged-in activities can blow a circuit in you?  Are others around you throwing you hints that you need a break from your electronic devices?

When we say, “plugged-in” and “unplugged,” we want to make sure that it is not confused with actually “turning-off” your devices so no one can reach you when something important happens.  Keep your devices plugged-in; but mentally, you should have an “unplugged attitude” and be away from your devices.

Does the following example describe your typical evening?

Eating dinner with your family is a time of the day you truly cherish.  You left work about an hour ago, and your mind is calmly shifting to the other important matters in your life besides work.  Your cell phone rings, and you answer it.  This interrupts the peaceful moment, but you do it because you think you should.  The faces of your loved ones give a glance of disappointment; but that look is very familiar.  You can’t ignore the call.  As 9:25 p.m. rolls around, you receive a text message from someone on your staff.  This is probably important too, so you stop watching your TV show and participate in a lengthy back-and-forth texting exercise.  And as usual, you just want to check your laptop one more time before bed at 11:00 p.m. to see if anything important is happening.  The time on the clock soon approaches 12:15 a.m., but you’re semi-surprised that an entire hour has slipped past you again.  While shuffling off to the bedroom, you grumble about how time is always being robbed from you.  Curses to The Time Robber! But then, you rationalize that you are a manager, and you need to constantly stay informed.  You have convinced yourself that good managers make these types of sacrifices.    Never mind how grouchy you feel every morning – everyone on your team sympathizes with you because they recognize that dedication has a price.  They just hope that you don’t blow a circuit during their shift!

Why are you accessible all the time?  Is it a requirement, or is it your choice?

Let’s first clarify an important factor: If your business has a need for you to be on-call because of the specific nature of addressing true emergencies, then this article will really not apply to you unless you are still plugged-in when you are not on-call.  We basically want to address the habit of non-on-call managers who manage their business during normal business hours, but feel that they must always be plugged-in no matter what.  It’s about choosing to be plugged-in past the point of necessity such as during days off work, vacation time, holiday time, and sick time.  Depending on the level of accessibility you are providing to your team, this habit could be the cause of your burnout, your stress, and the absence of that non-work-life you’re supposed to be enjoying.  Perhaps the habit of being tethered is something you’ve developed unknowingly.  Regardless of how the habit was established, it can be identified as a self-imposed routine that could be harming you, rather than helping you.

We invite you to think about these three elements to determine whether or not you really need the habit of staying plugged-in 24/7.  Dig deep and be honest with yourself:

  1. Who established the habit? Sometimes, managers make themselves overly-accessible because the manager before them did this.  Other times, a new manager wants to demonstrate his or her pledge to always be “there” for the team.  Both of these situations imply that a manager is choosing the habit of never unplugging.
  2. Who demands the habit? All managers have a boss, so it could be that your boss demands this of you because he or she doesn’t unplug either.  If this is the case, we would never advise you to battle with your boss.  It’s your own discernment if you can have a conversation about this issue and figure out if the perpetual tethering is essential.  But if you are just demanding it from yourself, then you’ll have to keep reading this article!
  3. How important is the habit? True emergencies, such as an employee’s physical injury, should be addressed immediately.  For instance, if someone is injured during a shift when you are not present, then you must be notified the moment it happens.  The safety of life and limb takes the highest priority of all emergency notifications.  The malfunction of important equipment and insufficient staffing issues are also important, because these impediments can negatively impact the normal flow of business and the bottom line of profit margins.

Now that you have a better idea of which element is causing the tethering at all times, you can begin to consider how you can establish a new habit of unplugging without feeling as if you are abandoning your team.  Try any or all of these four suggestions:

  1. Tell your team that you will be unavailable from the hours of X-to-X because of dinner time, bedtime, hygiene time, vacation time, surgery recovery time, etc.  Sounds funny to mention surgery recovery time, doesn’t it?  Believe it or not, some managers will remain plugged-in when they are healing in a hospital bed!  Accept the fact that your team will not complain about your unplugged hours; and they’ll understand that even you, their manager, is deserving of some off-work time away from business concerns.
  2. Offer specific scenarios about when your team can contact you by defining real emergencies to them.  Explain that you will not read or respond to emails past a certain time of the day, and you do not want phone calls unless someone is “dead, dying, of bleeding” (best mental visual that explains it well).  As a manager of adults, you can count on them to comprehend this message, and the guidelines will clearly be set.
  3. Research articles and case studies about the pitfalls of work burnout whenever you doubt your decision to unplug.  The pitfalls range from the decline of personal health, relationship losses, and a quality-of-life imbalance.
  4. Give yourself permission to unplug. Allow yourself time to breathe and refresh again apart from working hours.  This will open up new windows of time to do other things!  Just decide to unplug during the timeframe you specified, and don’t look back!

Ahhh… doesn’t it feel wonderful to imagine the freedoms from plugs?  We can promise you that it feels 10,000 times better when you actually do it and live by it.  Catching up on what you think you’ve missed could be your validation that it’s “okay” to be unplugged during your off-time.  Give your Time Robber the boot and smile while doing it!

Share with us your experiences with being unplugged and how it improved your world!  Comment here or email us at recruitment@agimanagement.com — we are interested!