The pitfalls of “always on”

As someone who’s done crisis communications, I know more often than not, our jobs are not 9-to-5. In fact, since our smartphones became our constant companions it’s more like 24/7. Surely there have been many times that it’s been important and necessary for colleagues to reach me late at night or early morning. Working for a utility company during Hurricane Sandy in 2012? Necessary. Working for a new client during an unannounced, unforeseen CEO transition? Necessary. I’m pretty sure I took calls around the clock and had to, just to keep business moving and meet other deadlines.
But then there are the other times, when “always on” is just a habit of our lives and it leaves me wondering if that “always on” is really necessary.
Consider the following: during any given eight-hour workday, we are subject to dozens of tense situations: a traffic jam on our commute, stalled train, angry client, late meeting, the list goes on. If we aren’t careful, our “fight or flight” response – the mechanism in the body that enables humans and animals to mobilize a lot of energy rapidly in order to cope with threats to survival – activates each time these common irritants bombard us.


According to Psychology World, the fight or flight response triggers increased heart rate, constricted blood vessels, and tightened muscles. If that’s what potentially happens to us several times on a daily basis how can we show up to conversations relaxed, collaborative, and open? It seems counter-intuitive to me that most people want their employees/vendors/advisors available to them 24/7 yet, they also want uniquely creative, strategic and insightful solutions. I don’t think it’s possible to have both.


I’m in favor of ditching the 24/7 mentality. After years of being always on, now I set boundaries and expectations and think twice before I respond to a new person off hours or on the weekend. What kind of message does that send about you as a communicator? How will you guard against fight/flight when it hits?