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The right to disconnect

A LIFE WITHOUT CELL PHONE? I remember the time, when one of my first Japanese friends kept on complaining, why I didn’t operate a cellphone. Believe me, during that time, sometime in 2000 or 2001, I was even typing my articles on an old typewriter from Germany.

My Japanese friend then bought me a computer – and a cellphone! Some other friends congratulated me: “Welcome back to the world!” 

Sometimes, I observed (business-)people operating with two or even more cellphones at the same time. I asked them: “How did you survive doing business before without these units?” Believe me or not. The answers have been mostly: I really don’t know!

Doing business nowadays without a cellphone? Even a very private life? I can’t imagine it anymore. Philippines’ cellphone companies really provide us with the widest distribution and the broadest coverage to very affordable charges. I really enjoy, for example, the unlimited call experience – just to mention one.

Two handsets or even three. Ok lang, as long as it keeps my business running. 

But then it happened! I thought I had lost my cellphone. I panic, losing all my important connections. This “thing” really has a special meaning for me. And here we are: not only for business. Just even for a short “Hi – kumusta ka?” I really felt lonely!

Journalist Chris Stokel-Walker explained it very well: for the average working person, there’s no greater feeling than powering down your computer and kissing goodbye to your avalanche of work emails for the day. If we’re lucky enough to disconnect from the job on evenings and weekends, we’re overjoyed to leave work emails and the stress that comes with it in the office.

But experts say we’re increasingly failing to do so, instead bringing the burden home with us and fielding emails during our free time. Unsurprisingly, this routine has some serious consequences.

Now, it is a reflex, like checking my Facebook or Twitter timeline. Yes, it’s indeed so – but never 24/7.

Working abnormal or long hours has long been linked with depression, anxiety and even coronary heart disease. Crucially, the importance of weekend recovery has also been correlated with weekly job performance and personal initiative. While further research revealed psychological detachment during off-work time, reduced emotional exhaustion caused by high job demands and helped people stay engaged.

So, if we know all this, it begs the question: why are we still letting work invade our precious weekends? 

According to Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology at Manchester Business School and president of the CIPD, the recent trend even spills into the way we access our work communications and projects.

Today, says Cooper, work emails are just a tap of a smartphone away. “You don’t carry your laptop around when you’re out to dinner, but you do carry your mobile phone,” he says. “The smartphone changed everything.”

If we don’t switch off from work we don’t recover from work. We should get the right to be disconnected. At night or during weekends.

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