Gary Tetz

They say confession is good for the soul, so here goes. 

I’m having an affair — with my smartphone. What started with a few innocent conversations and some harmless texting quickly became an obsession, and the two of us now sleep together every night. I finally admitted this to my wife, but she says she already knew.

If you’re like most long-term care professionals I know, don’t even think about judging me — you know you’re doing it, too. A study of 1,600 corporate managers by Leslie Perlow, Ph.D., a Harvard Business School professor and author, discovered that half checked email just before going to sleep, and 26% actually took their device to bed with them. 

There’s a name for this condition: nomophobia, the fear of being without your cellphone. You can diagnose yourself by answering this honestly: “At bedtime, do I lie down next to my device, tuck a tiny blanket around its screen and give it a little peck on the antenna?” If you answered yes, you’ve got a problem and the two of you definitely need some time apart. 

Curing nomophobia within long-term care isn’t going to be easy, particularly for the many who try to show their 24/7 commitment to the organization by sending emails in the middle of the night. Personally, I think managers should stigmatize this behavior by reading the offending message in a mocking tone on the overhead paging system. The chorus of boos echoing through the hallways should be therapeutic. 

In addition, any email sent after work should get the following automated response: “Dear Colleague, I’m sure whatever you’re trying to tell me at this ridiculous hour is extremely important, and I respect your energy and passion. But to best prepare myself for another challenging day in long-term care, I’m off the technology grid right now. Thanks for respecting my attempt to create a balanced life.” 

Then go to bed — alone.

Gary Tetz writes from his secret lair somewhere near Walla Walla, WA. Since his debut with at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.