Do you have email on your smart phone?  If so, have you ever tried to go unplugged for at least one day out of the week?  I have and I have to tell you, I think this half marathon I am training for will be easier!

I got my first smart-phone in 2006 and I was mesmerized by it.  I could receive email from anywhere in the world and could respond from there too.  That was very different from only being able to answer email in front of a plugged in laptop or desktop.

It wasn’t long before I was checking email from red lights; airports and yes, vacations.  I often joke that I haven’t had a day off since the first day I got a smart phone.  Add to email text messaging and the ability to surf the web, and I find that my little smart phone has revolutionized my life; it certainly has it’s benefits, but am I ever completely “off” of work?  And, as a result,  am I really 100%  at work either?  The days are longer, they are later, they are filled with an incredible amount of information and my brain never gets a rest.  So, I have to ask the question, where do we find a work life balance?  When do we realize that a change in perspective, a break from the information, a break from the work, may actually help us be more productive when we are actually AT work?  Conversely, how much of our personal lives that used to STAY personal affects us on a day to day basis at work because our personal drama follows us 24 hours a day?

Where is the balance?  Is it too stark to have one day of the week that is “unplugged”?  Is the answer to build the discipline in our lives to be “unavailable” for customers, bosses and employees at least part of the day?  Is the answer to build in support staff to help you monitor email during part of the day so that you can either rest or get other parts of your job done?  We are afraid to lose the competitive advantage.  Our customers are impressed with us when they can reach us ALL the time.  But, in the end, does it give us a competitive advantage?

In our industry, most restaurant managers receive bonuses when their operation is at 110% performance, when costs are down and when sales are increased.  In this economic environment, managers fight for every dollar and thereby make themselves available at all hours of the night and on days off.  They do this without setting parameters regarding when that unanswered email can be escalated to a phone call in the middle of the night. The result is burned out managers who receive phone calls and emails that are not necessary and regarding issues that can wait.

Maybe the answer for restaurant managers is to find employers who will adequately staff the store; understanding that an extra manager is more profitable than a burned out manager.  I have a client who not only understands the philosophy of staffing the store adequately, but also educates managers on a work-life balance.  This particular client actually cares about their employees and their community.  I have clients who have rules about contacting managers (especially General Managers) on their days off.  District Managers stand in the gap so that the General Managers can spend time with family, and could be unplugged should they so desire.  General Managers pull closing shifts so that their Assistant Managers can do the same.

The most valuable resource you have is the skill set that allows you to do your job well.  For many of us, we have specific skill sets and if we can’t utilize that skill set because of health problems caused by constantly being ON the job; then what have we really accomplished?  That is a smart question and should probe us to pick smart employers who realize that their most important asset is you; a fresh you; a you that can make decisions with a fresh perspective and a rested body.  That is smart employers, but it is your responsibility to be a smart worker.  Don’t let an electronic device rob you from living your life; live a smart life–you only get one.

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