In all the anecdotes I’ve run across while working on The Restless Project, this simple scene might be the most powerful. And depressing. It appears in a story I wrote for CNBC.com recently about a gruesome new trend which I’ll call “work-family multitasking.”
“I spoke recently with a gentleman who works for a state government agency and he told me that he is constantly on Twitter on his phone after normal work hours,” said Russell Clayton, a management professor at St. Leo University. “He told me that in the evening he will use one hand to catch a ball thrown by his toddler son and use his other hand to scroll through Twitter.”
Sure, you can play with a small child while talking with other adults — happens all the time. We wrote about the five levels of listening in The Plateau Effect. Half-hearing a child’s blabber while chatting with your spouse is on the lower end of the scale, perhaps 1 or 2…empathetic listening to a friend talk about a sick parent is a 5. All these things have a place in time.
But playing catch and following Twitter? That just means it’s time to call a time out.
The CNBC story wrapped around a new Career Builder survey showing many employees not only bring work home, they mix work and home in a mutlti-tasking mess. Here’s the lead of the story, but please read the whole piece at CNBC.com
There’s plenty of evidence that the traditional eight-hour workday has gone the way of the cassette tape with many employees routinely staying past 5 p.m. and remotely checking in with the office well into the night. But now an inevitable clash has arisen—what might generously be called “work-family multitasking.”
As professional and personal lives become increasingly intertwined in this always-connected world, workers and their families are struggling to set boundaries.
A CareerBuilder survey released Thursday found 24 percent of knowledge workers check work emails during activities with family and friends. Nearly the same amount said work is the last thing they think about before they go to bed and fully 42 percent say it’s the first thing they think about when they wake up.
And nearly 1 in 5 people seem to have no ability at all to unplug from the office—17 percent said they have a “tough time enjoying leisure activities because they are thinking about work.”
“The problem is that we have created an expectation in our society that we are reachable and available at all times. The new technology allows that and, instead of putting boundaries on our time outside of traditional work hours, we allow work to bleed into our downtime and personal time and to interfere with quality time with family and friends,” said Tanya Schevitz, spokesperson for Reboot, a think tank that promotes an annual National Day of Unplugging in March.