Elizabeth Tan firmly believes in the power to change the world with writing. She enjoys offering different perspectives on what plagues our society today. Through various platforms, she hopes to build Singapore into a place sustainable for the future.
Can we truly evade the advancement of technology? As more and more experts step forward to comment on the harmful effects of technological advances, it makes one wonder how long we can abstain from it all?
All of us must be familiar with Whatsapp. When messages come in, they come in fast and furious – if you don’t look at your phone for a few minutes, you could have been missing out on 124 pieces of new messages. Don’t look at it for an hour and you have enough text to fill a short novel.
Last week, I met with a friend, who shared with me the horrors of instant messaging. Raine is a corporate executive working with an MNC. She installed Whatsapp as a convenient way to keep in contact with friends. Ever since a “Work Group” started, Whatsapp has now become a corporate nightmare.
Raine’s boss insists she respond to Whatsapp messages as and when they are sent. She also insists that appointments, notes and instructions on Whatsapp will be assumed to have been read and complied.
I think a draconian approach like this is not fair.
a.) It encroaches on personal time: Whatsapp had started off as a means of leisure communications. A user should not be compelled to give it attention if he/she doesn’t want to.
b.) Management: With so many chat groups, it is very difficult to follow-up with what’s important and what’s not. These messaging systems are also prone to failure, it is not uncommon messages don’t get delivered.
Technology has invaded our lives in more ways than we wish for. Companies have now hopped on to the bandwagon of reaching their employees via means more than simply emails or phone calls, and opt to use ‘free’ text messaging on platforms such as WhatsApp or WeChat.
But what does it mean for the employees?
Fact#1:We cannot escape it – it is a new normal
It is time we embrace the truth that we will be participating in the technological advances of this world even if we (very much) wish to be left behind – our employers will sooner or later, come to use all these various platforms to reach out to us. Be it WhatsApp, or Skype, or Viber, it is more cost effective and efficient to tap on these applications.
What is at stake is our private time, our personal lives, mixed and mashed with our working hours because of this ability to connect. It is 9pm, you might receive a WhatsApp message from your superior – it is no longer uncommon. The lines between your professional hours and private time have blurred.
Employers must know this and not take advantage of it. The words “work-life balance” may one day be obsolete.
We have moved into a new phase of corporate life where “flexi-work” makes more sense than “balance”.
Fact #2: Manage your technology
How do you manage your instant messages?
Some employees adopt the ‘ignore’ approach to these messages (unless it’s a life or death situation)
Some employees, adopt the ‘reply if possible’ approach – where if an answer can be given quickly and accurately, there is no need to wait till 9am the next morning.
Some eager beavers who too keen to impress, reply to everything at any time.
Now, these approaches are not wrong, but either extreme will result in us either losing our entire private time, or being deemed as unreachable after office hours.
I believe “Everything is good with moderation”. Set up some guidelines you find fair to yourself and your employer. Let your boss know what to expect.
(Editor: I personally let all my colleagues and partners know I shut off all instant messaging alerts and will not reply instantly. Urgent or important matters should come through a phone call)
Fact #3: Accept these “modern inconveniences”
Rather than villain-izing employers and seeing their Whatsapp messages as an intrusion, we could take a positive approach to it. These applications offer employers flexibility also. If employees are not at their terminals or attending to private matters, it does offer a means of “soft” communication.
Whatsapp can also be used to promote conversations that are not directly related to work, but foster conversation that keeps everyone’s thoughts sharp.
More employer-employee dialogue is increasingly necessary
It is common to have employees keep quiet about what they are unhappy about. Dialogue will help close the misunderstandings and set boundaries regarding such applications.
Speak to your boss, speak to your colleagues and set some rules on how everyone should be managing instant messaging.
Manage your technology instead of getting managed by it.