10/30/12 – Living in a Digital Nation

30 Oct

After watching Frontline’s focus on a Digital Nation, I felt like this was very well represented the country and nation we live in today. I, myself live in a world where almost everything I do is computer based… I write everything on the computer, take notes mostly on the computer, communicate through technology, and much more. I enjoy living this kind technology powered life.

Even though I enjoy living in such a highly technology based life, I find it almost scary how much we depend on technology in our daily lives. One of the scariest things is how many distractions are caused by technology, which was covered in the first chapter of the Frontline report. When I sit in class here at MSU, I look around at the students around me and see many people checking email, surfing Facebook, reading Tweets and Tumblr feeds. Somehow, people manage to try multitask, paying attention to the professor teaching and the unlimited distractions on their computer.

In the past few years, people have become more and more dependent on their email. This means that email has become more and more of a distraction, making people always want to check their phone or computer to see if they have any new emails. A couple weeks ago, I read an awesome blog post by Bart Lorang of FullContact.com titled, ” Paid Vacation? That’s Not Cool. You Know What’s Cool? Paid, PAID Vacation.” Here’s some excerpts from that post which relate to this (but please, stop reading this post now and read this blog post)…

In essence, not only do we provide employees minimum 15 days paid vacation plus the standard Federal holidays, but WE ALSO PAY FOR VACATIONS!

Here’s how it works: once per year, we give each employee $7500 to go on vacation. There are a few rules:

  • You have to go on vacation, or you don’t get the money.
  • You must disconnect.
  • You can’t work while on vacation.

That’s it – pretty simple. In putting together our new “vacation policy” we came up with some guiding principles:

Guiding Principle #1: It’s Really Important to Disconnect.

In today’s world of Email, iPhones, Androids, Twitter, Facebook and devices on our person 24×7, we’re always connected. It’s not healthy.

As I started thinking about the upcoming two weeks off the grid, I started to mildly panic. I was worried that I’d break down. I was worried that my new bride would find me in the hotel business center cranking through emails like some crazed addict.
I’ve tried to go off the grid for extended periods of time before, but have failed frequently.

Brad nailed it. It’s super important for people to disconnect. It’s so important at FullContact that we will actively incentivize this behavior.

We don’t want employees reading email. We don’t want them calling or checking in – we might even disable their work email accounts, but we’ll see

We just want our people to disconnect and have a great vacation.

Just as parents can smother their children when they leave the nest for the first time, founders, managers and employees can do the same:

What happens if a key customer calls?
I’m the only who knows this! What happens if my people need me?
Did you think about X? What about Y?

Perhaps it is a sense of ownership or desire to feel needed, but in many company cultures (especially startups), there is often a misguided hero syndrome that encourages an “I’m the only one who can do this” mentality.

That’s not heroic. That’s a single point of failure. It’s not good for the employee or the company.

But here’s the thing: If people know they will be disconnecting and going off the grid for an extended period of time, they might actually keep that in mind as they help build the company.

This blog post shows something which is very true in the world we live in today. In today’s day and age, people don’t take breaks from their work. When employees are on vacation, they aren’t completely away from the office because they read the emails from their smartphones…maybe even on the beach. This is an issue.

After watching this Frontline report, I don’t think anything will change, I just think people may become more aware of how common the digital world within the world world we live in.

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One Response to “10/30/12 – Living in a Digital Nation”

  1. cas101sj November 7, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Wow. I’m sure a paid, paid vacation would improve morale considerably. With the adoption of new technology we have seen many positive results. However, as Digital Nation showed, there are byproducts that have caused some concern. It’s great to see that you’re cognizant of this so that you can take time to disconnect; as hard as that may be.
    - Julie

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