I’ll Have a Blue, (Gmail, Facebook and Instagram) Christmas

We’re increasingly logging on to work emails after (and before) our turkey. Persist asks: why is it suddenly not OK to take a day off?

A survey of 1,000 office workers revealed that one-third of us plan on logging on to work emails on Christmas day. The research (conducted by customer experience consultancy TLF for software solutions brand, eShare) throws up various questions – and surely a few red flags – about our attitude towards working at Christmas.

Persist is an international team. One of our American editors was surprised that her boyfriend checked his work email at the table, during Thanksgiving dinner. But he’s not alone. Are we simply less bothered about the festive season, happily checking in on our smartphones? Or are we under the cosh of relentless, 24-hour, seven-days-a-week pressure to be more present than our colleagues?

‘Presenteeism’ – the act of looking like you’re working – is a thing, apparently. A writer for an international magazine we spoke to (who asked to remain anonymous) said, “I’ll absolutely log on to Gmail at work so I can be seen on google chat. You have to look like you’ve shown your face, even at Christmas.”

Surely the act of logging in just to be seen to have digitally ‘shown up’ it is somewhat silly? If not, there’s a definite inference that bosses are demanding work when employees are not actually on the clock. A visit to HR and a hard outline of what is expected during the holidays (including remuneration for work done) might be necessary.

But what if the pressure comes not from above, but from within? What if we are ‘over’ Christmas, needing to escape even if it means checking out by checking in, at work? Online travel agency, TravelSupermarket.com, recently compiled a list of top places to ‘escape Christmas’ this year. Could adopted traditions like Black Friday and Thanksgiving – which effectively extend gift-buying and celebrating by at least fortnight – have caused Christmas overkill in the UK?

The big elephant in the (chaotic, present-filled) room, of course, is Digital Addiction. A piece written for The Fix states “Behaviours that define Internet addiction, according to the Centre for Internet Addiction, include compulsive use, a preoccupation with being online, lying or hiding the extent or nature of the Internet use, and an inability to control or curb it.”

Are we doing this to ourselves? The website itstimetologoff.com is a forum for digital addiction. They organise digital detox weekends and events. Facts listed on the website include:

  • On average, we now check our phones 150 times a day, spending eight hours and 41 minutes looking at the screen (more time than we spend asleep).
  • Over half of all UK adults admit to being ‘completely hooked’ on their smartphones.
  • If you’re reading this, there’s a 34% chance you checked Facebook within the last 10 minutes.
Why should Christmas day be any different?

It’s Time to Log Off suggests ways to detox, like buying an alarm clock, (not relying on your phone, which just encourages an early online check-in) and going for a walk without your phone – digging out your old camera if you need a diversion. It also suggests a 5:2 diet; five days online, two off. No excuses.

Obviously, some of us put in a shift on Christmas Day. Some of us work while others do not. The rest of us? We need to step back. We need to put the smartphone down (ideally into a drawer) for a day, especially a day involving precious family time.

Brothers and Persisters, we welcome your comments – before you put your blinkin’ phones away!

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