Hands of a guy on laptop keyboard

E-luddism and my attempt to be off-line

Published on 20 February 2013
Updated on 19 March 2024

Two developments last week triggered the following reflection.

First, I decided to go for a half-holiday. I decided to spend half of my day with my daughter and her cousin skiing at the local ski centre outside Geneva and to spend the rest of the day working online.  In the morning, we would make the half-hour drive to the ski centre and return in the afternoon when I would take the other – working – part of my ‘holiday’. The plan worked very well on Monday. Half and half.

On Tuesday, I let the kids go to the ski school while I stayed in a café to finish a project I hadn’t completed the previous night. But I did get  an hour on the slope, as the café didn’t have Internet access. On Wednesday, I moved to the next café, which did. On Thursday, I dropped the kids near the ski school and worked all day, non-stop. On Friday, I scheduled three conference calls and took all three as I drove them to the ski centre. So much for my half-holiday.

Coincidently, if you believe in coincidence, I received a short article from the Times of Malta, which stated:

The GWU (General Workers Union) has ordered the Officers at the Foreign Ministry not to use their duty mobile phone and duty laptop after their normal working hours.

The union complained that  these Officers were being asked to take the duty mobile phone and laptop home so that they could receive and answer telephone calls and emails from the time they left their office until they returned.

These officers were being asked to work with this system on a weekly based roster.

In the spirit of trying to recover some free time, I empathise with  this news from Malta.  Malta’s trade union may have more success that I did as Malta’s scenery and sea may have some chance when competing with computers for the attention of Maltese officials.

But, essentially, this ‘order’ from the Maltese trade union is from some other time, a different time, a time that was,  in many respects, a  much nicer time. The reality has changed and the new normal is, as Pete Cranston described, very different. Our normality is to be connected. One experienced ambassador replied to this attempt to return to the old normality and said: ‘I am afraid this ship has left the harbor forever.’

I am still troubled by losing the fight to free up some time; I am tired of the endless rushing around; I am left wondering whether  wi-fi will be available in the graveyard.

But, hope is not lost!

And it comes from an unexpected direction… from the business world. More and more businesses are questioning the so-far dominant equation that more connection/networking implies more efficiency.  There is an increasing amount of research that shows quite the opposite. Already,  a number of companies are introducing Internet-free days, or procedures whereby  e-mail and social media are checked but twice a day, or even retreats that last for days without the Internet.

This functionality approach could be the basis for some more serious discussion on reasonable working time. Perhaps a topic for the next meeting of the International Labour Organisation?

In the meantime, we can laugh along with the New Yorker.

E-luddism and my attempt to be off-line

3 replies
  1. biljana
    biljana says:

    hi jovan, good opservation. i
    hi jovan, good opservation. i’m sure taht you think also about social and human aspect… we are human beings, not machines…we just use the machines, and we can still control how to use them….
    sooo i suggest to you (and others): Next time take a whole holiday, and if you are at holiday forget about work.
    Only fully (not half-half) rested you’ll be able to continue work successfully using the machines named e-tools. (by the way how was skiing, the weather…?)
    Nothing new, but it’s always good to be reminded…that we are the one who decide (choose)!
    and now i’m off-line!
    up to next switching, big greeting from bern!
    and warm regards to your family!

  2. Ginger Paque
    Ginger Paque says:

    Great point, Jovan, but I
    Great point, Jovan, but I disagree with the reference to Luddites in your title. As you note, it is not being a Luddite to keep the use of e-tools in balance. It is a misuse of e-tools to lower the quality of our work or professional obligations, and it is also a misuse of these tools, if they result in neglecting our other responsibilities, to family, to friends, yes, even to ourselves. E-tools must be used appropriately, even if that means turning them off sometimes. This is an important point, and I hope to see more discussion on it here.

  3. Mary
    Mary says:

    When I was five, I’d beg my
    When I was five, I’d beg my mother to let me stay up late – just another five minutes, mum… pleeeeease. When I was fifteen, I’d beg her to let me stay in bed longer – just another five minutes mum…. pleeeeease. Now I work from home and try to balance my work (online) and my life (offline) – but it’s difficult. I find myself saying – just another five minutes… and then I’ll log off. These five minutes add up – sometimes to a whole day. My solution? I have one day each week (usually Saturday or Sunday) when I don’t even switch on my computer. Then I don’t have to worry about turning it off. This is Step 1.

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