Drawing a line for a balanced life

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

We hear a lot about lines these days. Some of them are in red, like in Syria. Some of them are in sand, like in the movie Three Amigos. After showing humiliating cowardice in the face of tyranny from the evil, murdering El Guapo, Ned suddenly turns brave and gives an ultimatum to his fellow Amigos. “I'm drawing a line,” he says to Lucky and Dusty. “Men or mice, what'll it be?”

That's what long-term care employees at every strata of every organization need to immediately do — stand up tall to your facility managers, owners and overlords, muster your courage and draw a big, bold line. For anything short of an actual emergency, you're not going to be accessible after work any more. Not by email. Not by text. Not by phone. You're just not.

Sound extreme? In today's connectivity-obsessed world, probably so. But unless we act to strengthen the barricade between home and work, we're going to continue contaminating both. And for the purpose of preserving my last vestige of optimism for the future of our society, I'm going to pretend it's not too late already.

This isn't just the grumpy soapbox of a technology-challenged Boomer fighting obsolescence. Recent research reported by McKnight's suggests that sleep is impaired for nurses who use smartphones for job-related purposes at night, and that they're not as focused and effective at work the next day. That's likely true for all of us, whatever our duties. But in a competitive workplace, it's hard to simply ignore your administrator's late evening email outlining a 23-point action plan for quality improvement through electronic benchmark capitalization of MDS dashboard risk compliance.

Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte addresses this uniquely 21st century, life management disease in a new book, “Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time.” She highlights the problem of “contaminated” time, where days go by in a blur of what she calls “time confetti — one big, chaotic burst of exploding slivers, bits, and scraps.”

“The only relief from the time pressure comes from cordoning off genuine stretches of free or leisure time,” writes Hannah Rosin in reviewing the book for Slate.com. Obviously, that's easier said than implemented, but for most of us it should be a priority quest.

Personally, I've chosen to avoid email or the news at night, and to drink gallons of chamomile tea. I still can't sleep, but at least I lie awake thinking more peaceful thoughts.

With technology running amok and our future robot masters menacing, it's time for a pre-emptive counterattack, starting with a shift in the way we think. Feeling pressured to be available all the time is not OK. You don't have to sell your life for your job. Unless you're on call, you don't need to be on call. And when you show yourself available 24/7, you make things tougher for those who choose not to be.

This isn't rebellion, because everyone benefits from lives kept in balance. Quality of care is higher. Retention is better. The business is healthier and more profitable.

It's win-win for all concerned, so make a stand. Draw a line. What'll it be — long-term care professionals setting healthy technology boundaries, or mice?

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, who cobbles these pieces together from his secret lair somewhere near the scenic, wine-soaked hamlet of Walla Walla, WA. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.


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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with SNALF.com at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.