Email, now that’s a change. For about 75 percent of my working life, email didn’t exist, and cell phones were only beginning to be used. We seemed to get along okay, I thought. And with fewer devices that allow immediate response, we seemed to actually talk to each other more.
The last 25 percent of my working life, though, email, work email primarily, dictated my life. For a while I slept with my smart phone near the bed. Then realized that was a little too much even for me and I moved it into the bathroom where it would charge overnight and I’d only check it on those occasions when, uh, well you know overnight.
Then, I retired. I handed in my work Blackberry and my work email was terminated. Of course I had to then buy my own smartphone. Now, I obviously don’t get as many emails and my “immediate response” is not required so immediately.
I saw a column in the New York Times recently reporting that some companies – mostly in other countries, and, surprisingly, mostly in productivity-obsessed Germany – are telling employees not to respond to emails after their work day ends and actually have used technology to enforce that policy. These companies believe doing this improves an employee’s work-day productivity and gives them their free time to be, well, free. I like it.
In my old business – public relations and government affairs consulting – customer service was paramount. It was a keen and good message to send to clients that we respond 24/7. And I have to admit, I think that is a good idea. But it doesn’t mean that an employee needs to respond to his peers 24/7. Shouldn’t he/she be allowed to enjoy life the old-fashioned way? That is eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep and eight hours of free time, ideally.
We live too fast. Immediate email responses. Cell phones that we carry everywhere. Text messages! OMG. Text messages. Isn’t it usually just as easy and efficient to call someone, especially since the text comes to THE SAME PHONE?? Lordy.
Anyway, those are some of the changes when you retire. You do have to get used to living differently and not be married to your email, not worry about who’s doing what to whom back at your old workplace. After all, it is your OLD workplace and while you of course will still worry about the happiness and well-being of your friends there, the urge to know everything fades fairly quickly.
Retirement is supposed to be when you “retire.” It doesn’t mean you stop living but you start living differently. You hold yourself to different priorities. You don’t have to be “busy” 12 hours a day. Reading a book is okay. Working is fine, too, if that’s what you want to do.
So, my tip for those who may be about to retire or thinking about it down the road: Let the Aretha Franklin classic play in your head, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. But change it to R-E-T-I-R-E.