The Summer of Our Disconnect

Charlene OHanlon

Ah, summer. That time of year to kick back, take the kids to the beach, and disconnect from the office for a while.


Advances in unified communications and collaborative technologies have actually made disconnecting more difficult. Long gone are the days when you could leave the office at 5 p.m. on a Friday and really leave it all behind. And now that social networks, instant messaging and even mobile videoconferencing are readily available on pretty much any device, it's becoming more difficult to disconnect, even for those who really want to.

But there's an upside to the bleeding of work into home thanks to the technology, say the folks at Dimension Data.

'A lot of these technologies now allow a more flexible lifestyle. If you want to go to a baseball game at 6 p.m., you can. But it's a trade-off-you check your e-mail remotely so you can be with your family,' said Jim Koniecki, principal consultant at Dimension Data.

That also applies to vacation time. Whereas before, employees may not have felt comfortable taking a full week or even two weeks at a time, unified communications and collaborative technologies can now enable that extended time off, with the employees now 'on call' for important meetings online, conference calls or even intermittent instant messages. Even with the occasional interruptions, employees can feel like they're actually taking a break from the office without feeling overwhelmed by the idea of what's waiting for them when they get back.

Unified communications also can make it easier for those employees who really do want to turn it off when they're lounging by the pool or hiking the canyon.

'Jim is taking vacation next week, and I don't want him calling in while he's gone,' said Mitchell Hershkowitz, DiData solutions manager. 'I want him to unplug as much as he wants to. The technology allows Jim to forward his calls, his e-mails-even his IMs-to me or other employees while he's on vacation so he's not bothered by what he doesn't want to do.'

Sometimes, however, unplugging takes a conscious effort, no matter what technology is employed.

'Organizations have to be conscious that employees need to take time off, to have that vacation,' Hershkowitz said.

For some, though, it's hard to break away because it's too easy to stay connected. In that case, the answer may be as easy as employing a second phone for off-hours use and throwing the smart device in a drawer during evenings and weekends. Pretty low-tech, but with a proper amount of willpower, it's the most effective method of disconnecting I've heard of in a long time.

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