Offline is the new luxury (20)

It seems that only fools deal with their e-mails after office-hours. What’s going on? Irene takes a good look at the “offline-after-work” trend.

There is something going on when it comes to answering work e-mails after office-hours. For a long time, it showed that you were a “very busy person”, but gradually it seems that only fools are still doing it. Psychologist Tony Crabbe set the trend in his book Busy last year by stressing the importance of making conscious choices in what you take on and when. According to Crabbe, being busy all the time and always answering your e-mails is old-fashioned, while Cal Newport (author of Deep Work) also finds that we need to stop being constantly accessible and proclaims in every interview he holds that he simply turns his phone off each evening. What’s more, France rang in the new year with the news that the country’s Labor Minister had introduced an employment law which gave employees the legal right to avoid checking work e-mails out of hours.

In the meantime, I felt more and more like a right idiot spending my evenings checking my Inbox for the umpteenth time on my phone so as to eliminate the latest e-mails, or getting up an hour earlier in the weekend when the children were asleep to fix things work-wise. I really felt that I was crazy busy and that I had to stop, because—after all—wasn’t I supposed to be much more conscious of my online time now? But I’ve discovered that there are times when, in fact, I’m actually rather happy answering my e-mails in the evening and not switching my phone off. Take this as an example: recently, I was over the moon that I could leave work early without feeling (too) guilty, as my daughter’s school had called to say she wasn’t feeling well and needed to go home. I spent the afternoon bringing her the bucket (always just in time), placing damp cloths on her forehead and reading to her. And while she slept, I crept behind the computer and broke the new French law in every way possible. And you know what: I liked it.

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