The Curse of Connectivity
Ivan Pavlov famously showed that associating the sound of a bell with the smell of food could cause a dog to become hungry just by hearing the bell. He died in 1936, nearly 40 years before the invention of the cell phone, but had he lived to see its invention, he likely wouldn’t have had to use dogs to test his theories in classical conditioning. For generation Y (born between 1982 and 1993) and generation Z (1993-present), the beep of a phone notification has become nearly impossible to ignore, no matter what the situation.
This conditioning, coupled with the rise of technology in the workplace has blurred the lines between work and home in unique ways. The ability to work from anywhere offers previously unseen levels of flexibility and productivity, and can contribute to the healthy work/non-work mix that new generations are now demanding. Unfortunately, this flexibility makes it difficult for employees to “turn off” when enjoying their hard earned vacation and contributes to burn-out, relationship troubles, and anxiety. In fact, 26% of respondents to a recent survey felt guilty taking vacation time if they couldn’t check their emails, while a staggering 52% felt compelled to respond to emails outside of paid working hours. Perhaps most startling, 47% of respondents reported feeling guilty if they didn’t work from home while sick.
Graduates, and managers, must be aware of how important constant connectivity is and avoid abusing it for work related gains. Jim Link, Chief HR Officer at Randstad, recommends that, “as Gen Y and incoming Gen Z employees populate the workforce, companies… create protocols [to] thoughtfully address work/life boundaries to meet both organizational goals and employee needs and tendencies.”
Mr. Link offers wise advice. After all, if employees are always connected to the office while at home, they can also be connected to home while at work. Managers, and graduates, must ask themselves if full attention most of the time is better than partial attention all of the time?