I’ll admit I’ve been one of those people. You know, the ones who are a bit disoriented when they are away from the cellphone. You have to give me a break. Analytics requires internet access, so I have heard, and a multi-feature smartphone with hotspot capability has become the “Ernie” to my Macbook Pro’s “Bert.”
But as ‘bring your own device’ has spread and more professionals are looking to accomplish tasks while on the go, the methods organizations have learned to manage an always-on work environment, if not society, have been called into question. Rieva Lesonsky’s post on flextime is an example of how valuable work-life balance research has grown.
Extending the charge for new life balance is the new book Sleeping With Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change The Way You Work by Leslie A. Perlow. When I read my publisher copy, I could not help but realize how essential we need a rethink in professional availability. This brief book speaks to large business, but also works for small business networks that are emulating big business processes more by the day.
Break the Cycle of Responsiveness
Sleeping With The Smartphone opens with its first chapters examining Perlow’s experiment with Boston Consulting Group, a high demand advisory firm that serves global firms. The experiment was to have a few teams try Predictable Time Off (PTO), a specific schedule away from the regular team tasks. PTO “won’t solve all your problems.” Instead it “unlocks a more persuasive opening about work related and work life issues.” That openness, according to Perlow, can lead to better planning and discussions because issues surface that would otherwise be ignored.
PTO at first glance may not sound like breakthrough thinking. But the fact of the matter is that we can be so focused on managing “always on” devices and processes that basic “what-are-we-doing” conversations are overlooked. Perlow calls this focus “the cycle of responsiveness” – altering one’s time to meet the increased demand on their time. And I can say I am seeing this as much of a challenge for small business as it can be for the consulting profession Perlow examines. As the first half of the book covers the experience Boston Consulting Group, you will get to draw some of yourself from the experience.
So what were the results of the experiment? Perlow noted a comparison of teams, ones that embraced PTO and others that ignored it. In that comparison, several notable differences in attitude towards work and working together resulted – attitudes which, in real-life, would lead to teams better suited to address problems and solve them:
- 80 percent of those teams that embrace PTO report doing everything they can to be effective, compared with 42 percent of teams that dismiss PTO.
- BCG individuals engaged in PTO were more likely to see themselves at the firm a long time and were more likely to perceive that they were providing significant value to their clients.
The results also imply a thought shift – teams felt more confident to take more beneficial risks. Thus, people are better able to consider more strategic ways that ultimately influenced how a business is run:
“…as it becomes evident that the work could still get done as well, and often better, people’s willingness to take risks with regard to issues they raised and attempted to address – both work and personal – further increased…leading to an evolution in what was “acceptable” to say and do.”
Workaholics or Successaholics?
That the question the second half makes a team answer, through its explanation and how-to implementation. For fostering communication, I felt the steps Perlow offers are as valuable for small business teams as well as corporate teams. Again there is no earth-shattering new concept – how to manage a team’s time – but the book provides a good arrangement of “what to do” in your team or organization.
The takeaways and implementation steps are useful:
- How a team can form goals to support a common PTO schedule.
- Pulse Check, a set of questions aimed at the team, is meant to push analytical people to go outside their comfort zone to describe how they feel.
- Tips for effective facilitation of PTO are meant “when people most find it is hardest to make time for it.”
- Avoid dilution of goals, ensuring that the team “buys into the system.”
All these chapters are linked with the author’s emphasis on a slow process in infusion, requiring champions to develop the right level of expectations for improving productivity. It reflects a wisdom of building trust which technological usage can make us forget easily.
Sleeping With Your Smartphone may not solve every challenge you face, but it will enlighten any team trying to sync among themselves while questioning the worthwhile of on-demand accessibility. To note Perlow’s coined successaholic question – Is on-demend accessibility really worthwhile or just a badge of honor? It’s up to you to decide. And you may still be one of “those” people – if so, welcome to the club, brother! But after reading this you’ll be more aware of your teammates conferenced on the smartphone who feel they can deliver your deliverable and still have a life.