Particularly in an economy that’s still struggling to find its footing, at a time when employees still feel insecure about the future, companies will have to do a better job of recognizing the threat of overwork and detecting and addressing potential problems early on, Cross said.”While enabling a work culture that embraces flexibilities, leaders also have to be cognizant of the expectation they set for their workers to be ‘on’ or available all the time,” she said. “Not only will this require a culture shift, but also a new set of competencies for both employees and managers, to learn how to effectively manage personal time, set boundaries and identify the signs of being overworked.
Welcome to the “digital workplace” as author Paul Miller has termed it in his 2012 book The Digital Workplace: How Technology is Liberating Work. Lacking the constraints of place and time that defined the Industrial Age workplace — the 9-5 office — as a society we are having to adjust. In knowledge work, some of the best thinking and creativity doesn’t necessarily happen when we are nominally “working” since the mind never truly shuts down until we’re dead.
The bigger issue here is redefining knowledge work now that it no longer necessarily means traveling to a commute-in office to cogitate and communicate since these activities can be done most anytime, anywhere. As Mika Cross suggests, we will have to learn to manage them in order to avoid creating a “hive mind” that makes incessant demands 7/24. These minds are human beings and need downtime to refresh in order to remain sharp and focused.