Escaping the ‘always on’ call

We live in a 24/7 world.  That world is influenced and inhabited by technology and people; and driven by demand. Its nature is one of expectation and every time we meet that expectation the demand level goes up another notch.

Let’s say at once that this can be a positive experience. When we aren’t satisfied with the status quo, when we ask more of ourselves and others then the result can be improved customer experiences, personal development, innovations and great business outcomes. On the other hand, if we try to respond to the always on culture by being always on ourselves then the result can be stress and anxiety.

A recent survey by Aviva has highlighted this problem; revealing that 72% of UK workers check their work e-mails at weekends. Moreover, when it comes to SMEs, 83% of employees put in between one and two hours extra work at weekends whilst 93% spend between three and five of their weekend hours thinking about work.

It’s hardly surprising that the result of work intruding into personal time is work anxiety. So much so that 68% of SME workers say work anxiety is impacting on their social lives and causing symptoms such as irritability, mood swings and lack of sleep.

What’s the solution? Well the Aviva report comes up with five suggestions including planning ahead, having a shut-down ritual and making use of out of office alerts. These are all great ideas and if managed properly should help people to better manage their day and switch off at evenings and weekends.

There is one other area which employers and employees should consider when looking to effectively manage work and home time. That is the way in which phone calls are managed and transferred. Aviva suggests one reason for using out of office alerts is to free up time in which to concentrate on completing tasks without interruption. The same is true of telephone calls. It doesn’t matter if you answer the call or not; the sound of a ringing phone will break concentration. Arranging to transfer calls to a colleague or to answerphone will help to ensure uninterrupted working time.

Similarly, thought should go into how calls are managed when individuals are on holiday, in meetings or off sick. It is hard to ignore a ringing phone, still harder when that phone is ringing and no-one is free to answer it. Setting up agreed call pathways or hunt groups could make a difference here; boosting customer interactions through calls being answered and reducing the employee stress which comes from constantly ringing phones.

And don’t forget there is also the option of transferring calls to an outside agency such as a virtual assistant service. These services can answer calls in the name of the business, take messages, deal with simple questions and arrange for follow-up services such as sending out literature and booking appointments.

We may live in a 24/7 world but that doesn’t mean we have to work harder, just smarter. Making the most of telephone divert services can help to relieve stress and free up effective work time. If you feel like you are always on call, perhaps it is time to look again at working practices.

Written by Alison