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Always connected? Dos and don’ts of after-hours availability

Smartphones are great because we can conduct our work wherever and whenever we want. Or are they? While there is something to be said for convenience, there is also something to be said for being a slave to availability. This puts a lot of people in a grey area (yes, workaholics, we are talking to you). Here are some guidelines for staying appropriately connected… or not.

woman on phone in bed with an irritated husband

As more and more workers migrate away from the traditional office setting, Smart phones have become a blessing. We can now take calls anywhere we have cell service, meaning we are no longer tied to a landline. We can check e-mails and text messages in seconds. So how can this be a bad thing? Like anything we have instant access to, the ability to be online can become addictive. How do you know if you have crossed the line between being efficient and being an addict?

Probably the most obvious indicator that you have a problem is that you are annoying your significant other, your kids and and/or your friends. They’ll let you know by huffing when you are checking your e-mail, crossing their arms over their chests and glaring at you or by saying subtle things like, “Do you really have to do that now?”

Proper management of being connected 24/7 involves establishing priorities and boundaries. If the work you are doing is timely or others are waiting on your reply before they can proceed with their work, obviously you have to do what you have to do. Fulfilling your obligations is still going to feel like neglect or rudeness to some, but the way around that is to say, “I know this is a pain. Give me just a second. At least doing this from my phone gives me the ability to be out here on the golf course with you instead of being in the office.” This type of usage should be limited to what is absolutely necessary. If you are checking your Facebook status every 37 seconds or playing Words With Friends waiting for your turn to hit the golf ball, it’s time for a 12-step program.

To avoid becoming a “connection junkie,” establish times that are off limits for being on your phone. If you can’t put yourself in smart phone timeout during family dinners, on dates or when spending time with friends, you won’t have friends for long. If the very thought of being offline for an hour makes you break out in a cold sweat, you can diminish your anxiety by telling bosses, etc., that you are going to be offline for just a bit, but will be checking your e-mail periodically throughout the day.

If you suspect you are a smart phone addict, book a weekend somewhere where you know there is no cell reception. Falling completely off the grid is the only way for some to realign their all access web and text pass. It will feel weird for the first couple of hours, but don’t be surprised if by the end of the weekend you feel tremendously relieved and relaxed from not being available all hours.

More on cell phones

Do I really need a cell phone and a home phone?
Kids and cell phones: what you need to know
Does your teen need a cell phone?

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