The Dark Side of Always On

My job keeps me on the road more than I care to admit.    I don’t want to spoil my day by looking, but I believe that I have banked well over 250,000 frequent flier miles.  Yes, some of those miles were earned outside of actual air travel, but even if I lop 75,000 miles off the top, that’s still a lot of crisscrossing the country.

However, not once during all those days of hotels, airports, conference rooms, and freeway driving through unfamiliar cities did I ever set an out-of-office greeting on my Modular Messaging voicemail system.  Why not?  That’s because for all extents and purposes, I really wasn’t away from work.  I may not have been sitting at my desk in Bloomington, Minnesota, but I was still working and why would I tell anyone otherwise?  Who cares if a few calls roll to voicemail?  That’s no different than any other day.

So, how do I create this mobile office?  With SIP, of course – SIP and my iPhone.  Along with Instagram, Snapseed, Pandora, and Facebook, I run Avaya’s One-X Mobile for voice calls and Microsoft’s Lync for presence and instant message.  Call me on my office number and not only will the 9641 sitting on my desk ring, but so will my One-X client.  You will have no idea that two devices are ringing and neither will you know which one I intend to answer.  The same holds true for my Lync client.  If you send me an instant message you will not be able to tell if I respond from my PC or my mobile phone.  It doesn’t matter if I am in California or New York.  You reach me in the exact same ways.

The downside to being always reachable is that I am always reachable.  If you are a business traveler like me, you understand that being away from home means that you are always working.   I take work calls early in the morning.  I take them late at night.  If I can respond to an instant message I will.  To be perfectly honest, though, I get bored sitting in hotel rooms and I would much rather help a coworker with a problem or speak with a customer about an idea than watch another rerun of Seinfeld.

Sadly, I also take calls, chats, and emails at home and after work hours, but I  am learning to not feel guilty when I ignore an incoming alert.  I recently read where companies such as Volkswagen and BMW are shutting down email for employees off the clock.  I wouldn’t be surprised if telephone numbers were going offline, too.  I am not sure if I am ready for that, but perhaps that means that I am the ideal candidate for an after-hours communications blackout.  “Hello, my name is Andrew Prokop and I am a unified communications addict.”

With any new technology there is good and there is bad.  Social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter have enabled one or two degrees of separation between billions of people, but they have also helped to reduce conversations to sound bites (sound bytes?).  Mobile SIP communication allows me to be reachable no matter where I am, but the line between work and personal life has been blurred to the point of being nearly invisible.  I am all for new tools and technologies, but balance, restraint, and common sense need to be applied.

Okay, I am climbing down from the soapbox now.  My phone is ringing and I have to tweet this blog out right away.  Feel free to call me later.  Trust me, I am always available.

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