Strictly Business

Saturday, Jan 19 2013 12:00 PM

ROBIN PAGGI: Get disconnected at work and at home

BY ROBIN PAGGI Contributing columnist

"I think that more flow of information, the ability to stay connected to more people makes people more effective as people. And I mean, that's true socially. It makes you have more fun, right. It feels better to be more connected to all these people. You have a richer life," said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

He has a point. Feeling connected to others is indeed important to our well-being; however, needing to be constantly connected to others technologically can cause problems for us in the employment world.

"Feeling like you're part of the gang is crucial to the human experience," according to Divya Menon at the Association of Psychological Science. "All people get stressed out when we're left out."

The folks at NPD Group, a multinational market research company, would probably agree. They released a report earlier this month that revealed that Americans have 425 million devices (computers, phones, tablets, etc.) that are linked to the Internet. There are more devices keeping us connected and apprised of what's going on than there are Americans.

In her article on the study on slate.com, Joelle Renstrom says, "The NPD study suggests that we're tethered to our devices -- we don't or won't disconnect. People want to touch them, hold them, keep them close, lest a disconnect open up like a lethal gulf."

So, what problems does this need to be connected create in the employment world?

First, the obvious problem: Employees who spend time during their workday constantly posting on Facebook, checking status updates, reading tweets from their favorite pop stars, etc. aren't getting work done, which makes employers unhappy. A word of advice for employees: Don't make your employer unhappy. Even though some people say there is a social networking addiction, the American with Disabilities Act does not recognize it as a disability, so that excuse is not going to help you. Refrain from social networking at work, or if you must connect, do it on your unpaid meal break.

Second, evidently the need to be connected is not just a social thing. There are some folks, called "hyperconnected workers," who feel the need to constantly check and respond to work emails during non-work hours.

Why do they do this? Said Harvard Business School professor Leslie A. Perlow in her article, "Sleeping With Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work," "The pressure to be 'on' all the time is extensive."

If this pressure is coming from employers, they should stop it for a couple of reasons: If they expect non-exempt (hourly) employees to check and respond to emails during non-work hours, then they have to pay them for that time. And even though Zuckerberg believes that staying connected makes people more effective socially, there is plenty of evidence that demonstrates that people are not as effective or efficient when they have no down time from work.

So, disconnect for a while, because no one benefits from being constantly connected at work or at home.

-- Robin Paggi is the Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR Legal Solutions. She can be reached at rpaggi@worklogiclegal.com. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian.

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