I have a reader in the USA who calls herself on here; US Chick Selling Windows, and she raised a rather good point the other week when I wrote about the workplace becoming more mobile:

Just because I’m curious about how it’s perceived in the UK, I will raise one negative issue I see with the rising mobilization of our industry: accessibility vs. notions of privacy/working hours. I have noticed that over the last few years, there has been a change in customer expectation—they frequently expect us to be available 24/7 because we ARE mobilizing. If we always have our smart phones, tablets and laptops on our person, why shouldn’t we be answering their emails, tweets and messages within minutes of their arrival? Although I try to avoid it, I have found myself on the company Twitter account late at night, while I’m off the clock, replying to customer messages. Has mobilization completely destroyed the notion of set working hours? In my own life, there was always an understanding that at about 6 in the evening, people start going home from work, eating dinner, etc, and no businesses were available. If you send an email at that time, you shouldn’t expect a response until the next morning. If you send an email on Friday evening, you shouldn’t expect a response until Monday. Yet, my boss feels compelled to answer his emails multiple times a day, including at night and on the weekends. To me, this is both admirable and kind of sad. Admirable because he cares about his company a tremendous amount, but sad, because in this industry, waiting until the next morning to hear if we have a part for you isn’t typically going to make a huge difference. But with the economy, we feel that if we don’t respond quickly enough, we’ll lose business. Family gets pitted against work, and when the economy is this bad, work tends to win.

Is this a problem in the UK too? Or is the notion that “work is done for the day” still viable?

She does raise a good point. With social media bringing 24/7 total connectivity, are the normal work hours a thing of the past? If you sign a customer up who is also on Twitter or Facebook, are you now always ‘on call’ if they need to ask you something or have something to report to you?

It’s potentially game changing stuff. The normal 9-5 office hours are becoming less important as the age of information means that nearly everyone is almost always available at any time of day. But is this a good thing? In some ways yes and in some ways no…

It’s great from a customer to business relationship point of view. The ability to contact the company you bought from at any time of day will make your after sales service seem that little bit better. Having what seems like instant information on tap from the company they bought from is a good thing for the consumer.

However, with social media ingrained in everything we do, the standard working hours don’t really exist anymore. That line between working life and personal life is very quickly becoming blurred. It’s not a good thing. Taking home work is never good for family and personal life. We all need that down time where we don’t have to deal with the public, that’s the whole reason why we have the working day – to deal with the public! It might seem like it’s going that extra mile being able to contact your customers at all hours of the day, but it is slightly less professional and will have a negative impact on home life.

What I’m trying to say is that despite the advantages of social media, the line between work and home life needs to remain if work is to stay professional and home life is to stay the place of retreat.