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This post was inspired by a recent early bird booking period for the BP2018 Conference, which was announced on a Saturday, but scheduled to finish at midnight on the Sunday of the same weekend. Now, I’ve no objection to conference organisers setting whatever conditions they like, but it really saddens me to think that, as hard-working professionals, the assumption nowadays is that we’re all online 24/7. Are you? I know I’m not…

Perhaps I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, but really, I’m no technophobe, and I do spend an awful lot of my time at the computer screen, and therefore, inevitably, online. I go out to various activities most weekday evenings, but I’m not averse to catching up at some point in the evening if I’ve been out (or interrupted) during the day and I haven’t achieved what I’d hoped. Likewise at the weekend, I try not to work if I can help it, but if it’s a rainy day, with nothing else going on, I may well end up reading through a final version of a text, or even translating to get ahead of myself for the coming week. And that’s all fine: that’s my choice.

However, when it comes to clients (or colleagues) expecting you to be there round the clock or at the weekend, that really is another matter. I have one client who occasionally contacts me via Skype after hours or at the weekend, but he knows I may not see his messages until much later and there’s never any sense of urgency. Again, I’ve no problem with that. What I do object to is when clients e-mail out of hours and expect you to respond immediately. Or even, as has happened on a number of occasions, when colleagues post on e-groups and expect that you’ll reply at once. Quite apart from the fact that I often read e-group posts via daily digests, none of us should feel tied to our computers all the time! It would be a slippery slope in terms of work/life balance if we were…

Don’t get me wrong: when I’m at my desk, I pride myself on responding to e-mails as soon as possible, and most of my clients are fully aware of that. They’re also aware that I will tell them if I’m going to be out of the office for more than a couple of hours or if I’m going on holiday, because I always let them know. Most of them also know that I have two dogs who I walk twice a day and if I don’t answer enquiries promptly, it’s probably because I’m out with the dogs. Living out in the sticks, as I do, there’s no guarantee that I’ll get reception, either mobile or data, when I’m out locally, but they know I’ll be in touch as soon as I can – and that’s usually fine too. Out of hours, though, is my time and my terms. If I do pick up an e-mail or a call, or see a Skype message, all well and good, but I can’t guarantee it. Nor would I want to – I genuinely believe that we all work much more effectively if we have some time off, away from the keyboard, to live our own lives and take a breather with friends and family.

Dogs on haybales Boxing Day 2017

Going back to the weekend early bird period that triggered this post in the first place, I happened to have friends staying that particular weekend, so didn’t have chance to go online. Now, in the grand scheme of things, missing out to the tune of €30 is neither here nor there, but as my mum would say “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves” (or even “many a mickle makes a muckle”, if you’re that way inclined!). Nevertheless, there may well be people in the early stages of their career who might have missed out because they had other commitments, and even small amounts can make a difference to affordability when you’re climbing up the professional ladder. Is it fair to expect people to be online 24/7 to avoid missing out? (To be scrupulously fair, I should add that the organiser has since introduced another discounted ticket, at the same rate as the early bird ticket, for people who book in groups of two or more.) I’ve booked anyway, after the initial period, and am very much looking forward to the event, which I’ve heard great things about – and to revisiting Vienna for the first time since the ProZ Conference there back in 2009. Just don’t expect me to be online round the clock to pick up future announcements!

I know the early bird tickets for last year’s ITI Conference in Cardiff went on sale on a Monday and were strictly limited to a specific number of tickets at the discounted price. As it happened, I was on a plane to the US on that particular morning to attend the ATA Conference, so knew I’d be missing out, but I didn’t have an issue with that. It was a working day, it was well announced in advance and it was unfortunate that I wasn’t around, but entirely fair enough. So be it.

A much younger colleague of mine recently commented that, as a hyper-connected millennial, she expects an immediate response, and gets twitchy if one isn’t forthcoming. Maybe it is a generational thing and I’m the one who is out of sync with the modern world? Ah well, if that’s the case, I’ll just have to get used to a diet without worms…

bird with worm