on December 4th, 2006

I know I am one of the major culprits here. I have an insatiable desire to keep up with everything happening in our engineering business. I am tethered to my mobile phone and email/web to ensure I keep in touch and track disasters and relatively good news alike. These can range from a training kit destined for Baku in Azerbaijan being lost in New York, to a course receiving outstanding reviews. My wife tends to turn a benign eye to these deviant work related activities of mine until I am found  pondering a work related message which has popped onto my mobile phone at 2am one morning whilst on a camping trip with our children.

There is no doubt that the mobile connected office has enormous power for the engineering professional today. I am constantly amazed by the leverage obtained by both the notebook computer and mobile phone. An industrial automation engineer chuckled as he related just such a scenario last week. He interrupted his bike ride home from work, sat down on a park bench with his computer and mobile phone and conducted a conference with two colleagues in the UK and US and a client in SE Asia, to secure a sizeable engineering contract.

I have no doubt that if you want to succeed in the engineering world today; far more effort than a 40 hour work week is required. There are just too many things to do, sometimes at odd times during the day. One needs to be available to grab these opportunities.

A recent survey (thanks for sending this to me, Kevin Baker) conducted by CareerOne, indicated that 72% of respondents were working longer hours than 5 years ago. E-mail and mobile phones had dramatically increased their workload with 72% admitting that they checked their work related emails on weekends and holidays. Baby boomers were the worst – a stunning 90% admitted to checking emails after hours.

Whilst I am delighted with the additional work related information I receive when traveling and whilst at home, there is no doubt that employees need to extricate themselves from the mobile office in the interests of their sanity and health and to draw the line in the sand to demarcate their personal lives from their work related activities. In ‘my book’, the two priorities in my life are my personal health (I try to keep fit and feel both mentally and physically on top of my game) and my personal relationships (with my wife and two children). Work comes a distant third. One needs to take a definite and regular break from the office and focus on other interests which can be considerably enjoyable – a good book; a plunge in the surf, a glass of wine with dear friends and/or a life partner or perhaps even indulging in more exotic pastimes like sculpturing. I can recall numerous occasions when a long spell swimming at the beach and focusing on the great sun setting over the sea with my family helped me unravel a particularly thorny work related problem – my subconscious busy on my behalf.

As Stephen Covey says:’ Most people struggle with life balance simply because they haven’t paid the price to decide what is really important to them’.

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