By: Adam Roark
If asked, I will proudly tout the benefits of a smartphone in maintaining work/life balance. Smartphones have wonderful features that keep me connected to the digital world. With my phone, I can monitor my work and personal email, my Twitter feed and Facebook. Gone are the days of not being able to instantly obtain an answer to any random trivia question that may come up in conversations with my friends and coworkers. The phone allows me to access the Internet and walk around with a 24/7 news feed in my pocket. On the occasion that I finish a project early or am not too busy, I do not hesitate to take the afternoon off to spend time with my family. During these times, I can leave the office with confidence that I can still monitor my email from my phone. I tell myself that this is surely better than being chained to a desk and computer all day long.
Unfortunately, before the era of smartphones, there was such a thing as actually being away from work. When I have instant access to my inbox, anytime my mind wanders to work, I can and will check it. Many of us have become so dependent upon our phones that we have started to feel phantom pocket vibrations when it is not in our pockets. Or not actually vibrating. Recently, while at home and playing with my two year old, I found myself taking a break from playtime and checking my email on the phone. I apparently got caught up in reading some sort of correspondence, because the next thing I knew my two-year-old was standing next to me and pushing the phone out of my hands. He then gave me a look of pleading that clearly said, “pay attention to me!” I fully realized at that moment how dependent I was on this mobile device. Driven by guilt, I immediately turned the phone off and put it up on a counter, out of reach and out of sight. I then spent the rest of the day with my family without the phone and it was wonderful.
I still love my smartphone and continue to tout its benefits. Ultimately, I think that the phone allows me more freedom to decide when and where I get my work done. However, thanks to the lesson taught by my two year old, I realized that I was not really achieving any kind of balance between work and my life by allowing work to intercede with my family time. I now regularly make an effort to put the phone away and out of reach. I use this time to focus on my family, distraction free, and to allow myself some time to truly be away from work. For those of you who also find it hard to resist the urge to check your phone, just try turning it off every now and then. I think you’ll appreciate experiencing life distraction free, if even for a little while.
Adam Roark is a manager in the assurance services group at Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLP. He lives in Charlotte and currently serves on the NCACPA Work/Life Committee. He can be reached on his smartphone at email@example.com.