Through the years, I have encountered persistent fears about technology intruding into our busy lives and blurring the lines between our time and work time. The first major instance of this that I recall is, and we're going back a bit here, is when Blackberry's first appeared. The concern was that our boss could email us at any time and we would read it, like an automaton and then feel obliged to respond for fear of our bosses' perception, or a colleague answering first. And, some people would do this regardless of whether they were watching Emmerdale, playing with the kids or at the pub.
This is something that never really bothered me (though my ex-wife would hold a different view) and I'm the sort of person who takes my Surface tablet on holiday with me. I know that sometimes, I can close down an issue by responding to it swiftly, which could otherwise blow up into something much bigger which I would have to deal with when I got back. Conversely, I have also had one or two holidays spoilt by reading emails which made me unnecessarily anxious about issues I was powerless to influence which were for others to deal with.
So, the solution was simple and I got a divorce and no longer take holidays. I'm kidding of course, I did take a holiday - way back in 2012.
Somebody once said to me: "You can tell a good manager, because no-one notices when they aren't there" - although I prefer "the sign of good management is when no-one notices you aren't there". Having those structures, processes and good communications about who to turn to in your absence for specific issues, is critical for all our sanity.
Back to the future
But now we are in a world that feels a bit like Star Trek to me – I can video conference anyone in our organisation from my smartphone, desktop or tablet, regardless of where they are, using Lync, which is something we would have dreamt about (if you're like me) 10 years ago. We can also share applications, whiteboard or just send an instant message. We are even more accessible than ever and it's even more important for us to define the boundaries of when that's appropriate and when it isn't.
Not turned on
It's essential now, that we "switch off", recharge our batteries and enjoy whatever we do in our personal lives - which is something I personally need to get much better at. We all need to take care not to be intrusive towards colleagues and not to allow ourselves to be intruded upon. It's common sense too - I know that if I am required urgently, someone is likely to call me, rather than send me an email or an instant message. So do I really need to regularly check my emails outside of work?
Something I feel that digital has taken away from us to some extent, is real-life interaction. I've been out with friends in the past and all have us have been there on our phones, scrolling through the inane and banal on Twitter and Facebook. I've since removed both of those from my personal life, and I try instead to maintain a real-life social network - while digital is great, I still prefer to talk to (most) people face to face, work colleagues included.
Normally my mobile is with me at all times but now I've surgically detached it, I've started to leave it in the hall rather than have it in my pocket when I'm in the house. I may even try and leave it at home next time I go out for the evening (though my anxiety is building just writing that) or who knows perhaps one day I will be able to switch it off at night.
Martin Britton is Prif Swyddog Gwybodaeth (Chief Information Officer) of Natural Resources Wales