‘Always On’ Execs Are Happier, More Productive

Discussion
May 29, 2012

Always being on call apparently gives high level executives more control of their lives and is actually good for them. So says research by advertising agency and self-described global ideas shop, Gyro, and business publisher, Forbes. "A welcome and constant stream of information" allegedly leaves 84 percent of the 543 decision making participants "feeling better prepared and empowered to make highly-commercial business decisions" with only 15 percent saying they "struggle to separate work from valuable personal/family time."

Many find they are "blending work and personal time effectively to make better business decisions, free from the shackles of the ticking clock," according to Gyro’s chief executive and creative officer, Christoph Becker. "Nine-to-five thinking is a thing of the past, and this must be reflected in how brands advertise with their customers and clients."

Forbes Insight’s website says surveys and interviews with high level executives "focused on business operations and strategy." Forty seven percent worked for companies with revenues of more than $1 billion. Respondents came from the U.S. (316), U.K. (105) and Continental Europe (122).

Gyro and Forbes Insights conclude that "boundaries of time and space that once defined the workplace no longer exist" and that, free from the constraints of a nine to five schedule, bosses value the freedom of flexibility that "always on" allows.

Real Business magazine reported the study by announcing that this "always on" approach has a positive effect on both work and personal lives, stressing that only 15 percent say they struggle to separate work from valuable personal or family time. It goes on to suggest the remainder "feel in control to be able to enjoy their free time."

The companies say their report was designed to "explore the new @Work world and start a conversation about devising the most effective messaging" by "understanding motivations, emotional attitudes and levels of satisfaction with round-the-clock, all-device messaging."

Discussion Questions: What do you think of increased blending of work and personal lives with the aid of technology? Does “always on” really improve motivation and decision-making?

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23 Comments on "‘Always On’ Execs Are Happier, More Productive"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Conrad Hilton always ended his business days at 6 p.m. I think there is something to be said for work/life balance. Even though I’m always on, I’m not sure the cost of leisure time is worth it. While only 15% say they struggle, it may be they don’t notice how they are being conditioned to answer ever chirp or vibration and are drawn away from their own kids, families — indeed, lives.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Technology has made it easier to blend work and personal time, but not to the betterment of either. Having a constant stream of information may feel empowering, but it is addicting, making it too easy to not focus on family and leisure. Freedom is the ability to not work 24/7/365.

Dan Raftery
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

The “always on” lifestyle is great for some, but certainly not all. I know company presidents who turn off their smart phones when they are home. They are quite happy with their separation of work and home lives. They even have hobbies.

Maybe this explains the decline in the popularity of golf, where 4 – 5 hours of cellular abstinence is encouraged or required.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Did anyone think about asking wives and kids what it was like to have Dad “on call” during a birthday party, at the soccer game, or during what little family holiday they have? The actual report makes no reference to any male/female demographic and I’ve got to assume the respondents were almost all male. That is affirmed by the report that only 15% say dealing with home/family responsibilities is an issue. Sure guy, it’s not an issue for ‘you’, you’ve got someone back at the house covering your _ _ _ .

And another thing…

What kind of an organization has such weak bench strength that it’s “decision-maker” has to be on call 100% of the time? A billion dollar company can’t do better than that?

Having read the actual pdf, I find this report without sensitivity or credibility; almost like we’re looking for data to justify being a lousy parent and partner.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

I think we’ve just identified 543 people who need to get a life. I also find these results ridiculous.

Look, no question, having access to information 24 x 7 helps speed up decisions and may, in many cases, even lead to better decision making, BUT leadership isn’t just about acting, it’s also about thoughtfulness and reflection and those are things done best when unplugged.

Also, while that might be fine for the executive, what about how an “always on” approach impacts his or her partner and/or children and extended families?

There’s a reason why we have two words for “work” and “leisure.” Too bad that increasingly we can’t tell the difference.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 11 months ago

We are in an age where we are constantly starved for the very latest precise information and afraid that we aren’t always receiving it to be productive decision-makers. Thus we are “always on” and use technology to combine our work and personal lives, a demanding blend that may be motivating us to be more contemporary than human.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

The day I decided to strike out on my own as an independent consultant in 2003, I have been ‘on’ 24/7 regardless of the technology. Blending work and personal lives has been a struggle, a balancing act when telex, pagers and fax machines ruled the ‘speed of communication’. Not only have we become the ‘connected-consumer’ but we have also become the connected business world. Given many of the retailing and marketing decisions we observe today, I suspect many executives are perhaps spending too much time answering e-mails and not enough time observing the shopping and technology behavior of their customers and target audience.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Let me volunteer myself as an example of “always on.” My business model is starting to take off in a positive way. However, we are not at the point where we can or are willing to afford after hours or weekend coverage. So guess who gets to volunteer? My wife is good with it for the moment because she understands why I am doing it. However, I can’t see her patience being long term; nor can I see me being able to “turn off.” Yesterday, as an example, we had just arrived at a party and my cell phone rang. It became an “important” fifteen minute conversation. I saw my wife explaining to the others why I was “on call.” After that I did refrain from doing any business until we arrived home.

So for me, I have to relearn a work/personal life balance. I believe it is most important to turn off, re-energize and be ready to face the next day with some rest and relaxation.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Technology has definitely increased the difficulty in separating work from the rest of your life. Before mobile phones, email, text, etc., it was easier to be unavailable for work and concentrate on family, friends, and even yourself. It can still be done, but it means letting people know that you are unavailable either actively by telling them or passively by simply shutting off the phone and not logging into your PC.

Saw something years ago that said no one wants their tombstone to read “He was a great employee.”

David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Well, I speak from personal experience. I am definitely an “always on” type of “executive” and I know that my clients and associates definitely need me to be. Ironically, being “always on” gives me peace of mind and control. And frankly, I like working with “always on” executives and managers in the business of retail and consumer goods because we are indeed a 24/7 type of business. This is not to suggest that executives in retail and consumer goods should not take time off nor go on vacations or enjoy some weekends. But if you are like me, the best way on enjoy and “relax” is to be “always on!” I don’t do this because I have to. I do this because I want to!

Ben Ball
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

The theme of the discussion has focused on the intrusion of the business world into private life due to technology. Fair point — but I’ll contend (just for fun of course) that this coin has two sides, just like any other.

Sometimes that same technology that intrudes at 9 p.m. can be used to allow a second leisurely cup of coffee at home with the wife at 9 a.m. Unless the position truly requires physical supervision of employees from “9 to 5” — the technology can be flipped to allow the executive to be just as “on” from the soccer game they otherwise would have missed entirely as they would have been while stuck in the office ten years ago.

It’s like everything else in this life — do you manage it? Or do you let it manage you?

Dan Frechtling
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

The blending of work life and personal life has a balance to it as well. We feel more comfortable blending in “personal” activities at work, be they fitness, visiting a child at school, social media, or something else.

While the Gyro study finds 59% make business decisions at home, it also finds 98% spend time at the office on personal matters.

Take the sidebar by Rick Karlgaard, Forbes publisher. “What kind of serious working professional can take time to ride a bike or chase fun of any kind in the middle of the workday, in the middle of the week? Answer: Tens of millions of us. Smartphones and Wi-Fi have set us free.”

Kate Blake
Guest
Kate Blake
9 years 11 months ago

I would like to say that this is lip-service because, as anyone who has worked the front lines of retail knows, while they want to reach you (the manager) at any time, try getting them in a crisis, i.e. quality control issues (moldy boots that are supposed to be part of a national sales push), or safety issues (gunman in-store), they will not be there. Especially at Christmas; when everyone in corporate should be manning the front lines, they are all away. Systems going down, pricing issues not downloaded correctly, quality problems … where is the Division Manager, Regional Manager, Sales VP? Aspen?

Jonathan Marek
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Personally, I actually think this can work, with two provisos:
1) It needs to cut both ways – that one can make time for family within the “9 to 5” block when it is important, as well as making time for work at many other hours;
2) One has to be there when one is there and not be constantly distracted by something else. This focus is hard to achieve.

Robert DiPietro
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Being ‘always on’ obviously cuts into defined personal time. It may actually help some folks, as it may be comforting to know that with a quick glance there is nothing going on and you can relax.

Veronica Kraushaar
Guest
Veronica Kraushaar
9 years 11 months ago

Are we getting only the male perspective here? As a female business owner, it’s a given we are ALWAYS on, if not at work, then certainly at home. The super-successful ladies (CEOs of major corps) are assumed to have the type of help typically performed by corporate wives, and/or the Margaret Thacher (Iron Lady)-type hubby who essentially raises the kids and runs the home. You can’t have it all, folks.

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 11 months ago
For the most part, I think it’s a good thing. You just have to control it. In other words, having access to more knowledge helps, but it’s best to pick and choose when to interact with that knowledge. You have to be sensitive to the world around you as well. If you’re out to dinner with your wife/significant other for example, don’t seek the knowledge then, just wait or learn as much as you can before or after your dinner. You know, be human about it. Example: I have a window when I’m on vacation of one hour a day (unless there’s an emergency) to go get or interact with the knowledge of my business. Fair enough. But the best part of that for all parties is that when I return to work, I am fully up to speed. There are no surprises, no big ‘what?’s, no drama — which is much less stressful and debilitating than pre-technology when it took you a week to catch up. So, win-win, unless I go over the hour.
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

I have always felt that I’d rather know about something urgent at work, than find out about it too late. I have no problem with the blending of life and work. I think it makes both more productive and enjoyable.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

Most high level executives are ‘always on’ because work is play. It’s what we do.

Larry Negrich
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

If you are going to be thinking about a work issue at home, it’s best to be able to take action on it. If you have been able to find a career that you like, then ‘work’, ‘hobby’… what’s the difference?

Donna Brockway
Guest
Donna Brockway
9 years 11 months ago

I love that technology allows me to access work and personal life from anywhere I need them. But even the most driven individuals need down-time, and a structure that allows a life. Without the balance, why not just sleep at the office? We shouldn’t forget that is the whole person that makes a great leader and manager, not just the hours put against the work. So, no, I don’t think being “always on” improves motivation and decision-making at all.

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

This is not only important in today’s global economy (which operates 24 hours a day), but critical. As the president of a global company with offices in China and the USA, my cellphone and emails are always “on” and I am available for my key decision makers in both Asia and the USA, both day and night. Even when I travel (and I am in Asia every month) away from the USA, my availability doesn’t change, just the offices who I work with during the day and night flip-flops. This provides for a challenging work and personal life that I thrive in since it requires great planning and time management both personally and professionally. This also requires me to maximize my skills and to maximize the use of my available tools. In total, I thrive in this environment.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
9 years 11 months ago

That’s okay if they can make the right decisions when they are taking time off with the family, taking a well deserved rest. But if they can’t concentrate on either activity, is ‘always on’ a good thing?

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