Availability Creep

Availability Creep

Availability creep is my current nemesis, and it’s yours too.

As I sit here in my snowy retreat in the woods, I find myself checking – and replying to – my work email. I came here to escape and get away from the hustle of my day-to-day. Yet I keep dragging myself back into it, afraid I’ll miss something, or checking in just out of habit. Even writing this short article I’ve checked it three four lots of times.

As a card-carrying, somewhat-reticent, member of the Millennial generation, I admit I live my life for my free time. While I love working, growing, and being a professional. Let’s be honest though, I do all of this in pursuit of my ideal personal life. The harder I work, the more I can enjoy outside of work. The more success I see in the office directly translates to more awesome vacations like this one.

For me, as with many young workers, I’m building the life I want to live.

As I get older, and more entwined with different corporations, I realize that there is a level of expectation regarding my work availability outside of my work hours. My personal cell phone now doubles as a work phone. I receive texts and emails from clients on days off and the expectation of good customer service is that those do not go unanswered.

The Way it Was – A Chance to ‘Turn Off’

My Senior year in college I interviewed the Associate Vice President of my university about his work habits. He stated, under no uncertain terms, that the secret to his success was giving 110% during work hours and then “leaving work at work.” He placed his phone in his desk, locked the door, and went home.

Can you imagine? 

This highly-successful executive left an impact on me. In my first job, when I left right at 6 pm, the end of my workday, and saw my coworkers staying late, I felt good. I was growing into a well-rounded individual.  This person insisted that maintaining a proper work/life barrier was vital to his success at work and to the success of his marriage – and I was totally on board with that too.

It’s been over a decade since he gave me that advice, and it still rings true. Give your employer/employees/clients every piece of you while you’re working – and then go home. But that’s not how it works today. If I’m unreachable off work hours, there are problems. So how do we make this work?

Always On – The Way it is Now

This is a relatively recent phenomenon. It’s not like our parents had to take a phone call from an angry client on a Sunday afternoon sledding session. Now, the possibility is always looming. Having a device where your clients and coworkers can always reach you makes it hard to disconnect.

A Redditor used the term “availability creep.” After extensive Googling, I’m convinced u/frnoss came up with the term.

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We are the generation to figure this out. We are the ones who will set the standard for businesses going forward. As leaders and entrepreneurs, it’s important to determine where the line between work and personal life should exist and then place it there. 

We’re all working too much – and we’re far more available than we used to be. This is something I’m currently struggling to manage. So, from my research, here are some tips to help curtail this availability creep from taking over your personal life and burning you out.

Set Boundaries & Change Digital Culture

  1. Be clear about your time off. Let the people you interact with at work know you’re one of “those people” who doesn’t check email or work texts on your days off.
  2. If you’re not self-employed, prove your value during work hours. Proactively share everything you do to ensure you’re an asset to them and the company. Communication is key. Most bosses want you to have downtime.
  3. If you truly have to, set up specific off-work times to check-in. Tell your employer/clients/employees that you enjoy your downtime, but you will check in occasionally. Allow yourself a brief check-in time, guilt-free. For example, I’ll check in on my days off at 10 am and 3 pm. All other times belong to me and I will limit myself to 10-15 minutes each check-in.
  4. Practice digital moderation. During your free time, put your phone on airplane mode, leave it in the car, store away your computer to avoid temptation. There are more extreme programs for those of us who need more help (yurts in the woods, cruises without cell reception, no-phones-allowed retreats). Like I said, I’m still learning how to be better about this availability creep. If you have any best practices or good advice, please share!

About the Author:

Brianna is a business person with a passion for social science. The two seem to always intersect and come together in Indie.  If you’d like to know more, check this out! If you like this article, please subscribe & check out Indie for more. Thanks, as always, for reading! If you have a story to share, please share it below! 

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