This week we’ve been looking at relationships: how the strength of our relationships is the number one driver of happiness and how to create moments – personally and professionally – that deepen our relationships.

Today we revisit public enemy #1 of building relationships: technology.

First, to be clear: I like technology.  Technology is a good thing.  Technology makes our lives better.

And…  Technology is also a relationship-chiller. 

Let’s say we’re having an important conversation with someone.  A phone buzzes, beeps, or rings…  What does it mean if one of us picks up the phone?

It’s called digital distraction and it means – implicitly or explicitly – that text, message or call is more important than the conversation we are having.  

Today, let’s take it a step further: as leaders, do we expect our colleagues to answer emails and texts after work hours?  

We’re not talking about IT professionals whose job it is to monitor and fix servers 24-7 or other positions where people are explicitly “on-call.”  We’re talking about everyone else. 

Do leaders in our organization have expectations that people read and respond to emails at night?  Do we celebrate those who do?  

Do we as leaders publicly say we don’t expect people to answer emails after work hours?  Do we walk the talk?  Do we advise folks to turn off the notification “ding?”

Technology has blurred the line between personal and professional time. Being actively aware of this fact is step one.  

Step two is choosing to prioritize the people and relationships in our lives. Having people check email and text after work hours interferes with building strong relationships.

We started this week with this quote from Dr. Robert Waldinger, director of the longest and most comprehensive study on human happiness: “The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” 

Drawing a bright line between our personal and professional lives is a strategy that works. 

[H/T to Maureen Underwood for suggesting this topic – thanks, Mo!]


Reflection: Do we expect our colleagues to be available 24/7?

Action: Commit to not sending emails to our team after 6 pm.

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