Adrienne Lenhoff on drawing the line between plugged in and tied down

Adrienne Lenhoff

Adrienne Lenhoff, president and CEO, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications

Many of us have become tethered to our businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week because of technology. Look around any restaurant, meeting or social function and watch as those around you check their texts, e-mails and social media activity.

For better or worse, we have become slaves to technology and in many cases have reached connectivity overload. Think about the times you have caught yourself at family or social functions discretely sneaking glances at the messages pouring into your smartphone. Is the smartphone outsmarting us or making us smarter and more efficient?

Recently a colleague was lamenting the fact that he can no longer escape work because whenever there is trouble, he gets the call. It doesn’t matter that protocol has been put into place to have others handle after-hours situations. My colleague is still most often the only one who is called.

Why? Because everyone knows he always has his phone with him and he always picks up. My colleague’s constant connectivity has completely obliterated any work-life balance he and his family once had.

Conversely, recently I visited my daughter’s school for parents’ day. As much as I try to balance my connectivity, I was thankful that I had chosen to have my iPhone with me.  Our office Internet and e-mail provider had a hardware glitch that knocked out connectivity at my office. Thanks to technology, an employee texted me about the problem. Had I not been connected, I would have been paying for 15 people to sit around, unable to work. Within minutes of my office plugging in my mobile hotspot, everyone was back to work and reconnected.

So what’s the perfect balance? As businesses owners, CEOs and managers, we need the connectivity to know what’s going on and to be able to respond instantly when needed. That connection and ability to immediately respond can be the difference between winning a customer, contract or losing one. It can help you troubleshoot when there is a problem from wherever you may be. It allows you to take advantage of situations where work and productivity would be lost as you wait in reception areas for appointments, airports for planes, or, in my case, even car lines as I pick up my children from school.

But it can also cause us to miss out on so many things in our lives that we sometimes deem more important that work. To determine if you’re too tethered to technology, consider the following questions:

1. Even after you unplug, do you crave the stimulation you get from your electronic gadgets?

2. Does the distraction of technology cause you to forget things such as dinner plans, birthdays and special occasions?

3. Do you have trouble focusing on family and friends because you’re more focused on your electronics device?

4. When you’re with friends and family do they often comment that it seems like you can no longer be fully in the moment?

5. Are you carrying around multiple devices to help you stay connected?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may be addicted to connectivity. In recent studies, scientists say that juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information. The scientists go on to explain that these bursts of information play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation causes an increased production of dopamine that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

Next time you reach for your gadgets to plug in after hours, ask yourself: are you the boss or is your smartphone?

Adrienne Lenhoff is president and CEO of Buzzphoria Social Media, Shazaaam PR and Marketing Communications, and Promo Marketing Team, which conducts product sampling, mobile tours and events. She can be reached at [email protected]

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