The challenges of 21st century communication

Ann McCracken ponders the impact of smart phones on our working and home lives

Mobile

“Smartphones bring work home and home to work creating high pressures and demands on people.”

Smartphones are amazing! Everything is available at the touch of a screen – from sending flowers to booking a train, from keeping in contact with family to receiving work e mails.

What is it about ‘phones that when they ring (or vibrate) we immediately feel the need to respond?

Is it because we are so pleased that someone wants to contact us, or is it just innate curiosity or is it that sinking feeling of “what now”? Either way, mobile ‘phones are here to stay and their technology has made access much easier, communication faster and much more intrusive.

I have seen reports, and observed some rather concerning behaviours relating to smartphones – obsessive checking of twitter, e mail and other feeds as well as instant responding; even taking selfies during the Tour de France race resulting in accidents to riders!  Have some people become so self-obsessed that they are unable to regulate safe behaviour?

Workplace behaviour has also changed, as managers and peers regularly make contact to discuss work or require something done out of hours and the work/life balance becomes skewed. With so much pressure to be on top of your job – either from the business or yourself….or both, smartphones bring work home and home to work creating high pressures and demands on people.

This is the food our ‘emotional body gremlins’ thrive on, resulting in ill health both physically and mentally (stress).

In her book – Brilliant Email: How to Win Back Time and Increase Your Productivity – Monica Seeley provides lots of tips on how to reduce the volume of email you deal with each day. A simple trick is to put the appropriate subject matter of your communication in your email heading – especially when you are returning a mail.  How many of us just press reply and keep the same heading? Or dash off something in annoyance and wish we had thought more carefully about our reply?  She encourages us to use email software to manage the flow of email traffic and choose the best communication method to respond.

This is all good stuff but people have to want to change.  When I advise companies on managing change and staying healthy their staff tell me that dealing with change is really hard, yet the behaviour change we have all experienced relating to smartphones seems to have been extremely easy for a large groups of the population.  It has however, isolated some “Traditionals” and  “Baby Boomers” in our society. No matter how often I have shown my 88 year old uncle and 90 year old aunt how to use their computer and my smartphone, they just don’t want to do it – and that is their right.

Smartphones and beyond are here to stay and we can use them positively to enhance flexible/agile working and flexible lifestyle as well as taking a break and switching them off.  The world and all it’s energies will still be there when you are ready to access them.

Ann McCracken is our chosen blogger for the Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Summit 2014.

About Ann McCracken

Ann McCracken is a Director of AMC2 and the vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK) – the professional body for stress management Practitioners.

She specialises in developing a positive and resilient working culture in organisations by introducing effective strategies in performance and wellbeing at all levels. The effectiveness of such a positive working culture is measured and assessed using AMC2 Corporate Diagnostic innovative surveys which include measurement of psychosocial factors, stress and wellbeing. Having initially trained as a scientist, she carried out research with DEFRA and consultancy in the NHS.

She spent 10 years in Education before retraining as a stress management practitioner in 1996. She is the author of Stress Gremlins©, regularly writes/broadcasts and is an external lecturer at Westminster University. She is also a Key Note/Motivational speaker/Conference Chair.

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