Author: Merel Kuysters

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  • Author: Merel Kuysters

If there is one innovation that has turned our lives upside down, then it is the mobile phone. In the not-so-distant past being contactable was place and time dependent. Nowadays, thanks to mobile phones, your family member, colleague, or customer is never far away. Phone calls, WhatsApp messages and emails keep coming in, which is convenient and tiring.

It was to be expected: the right to disconnect has been a topic for some time now. In the Netherlands there is a law in preparation that regulates that employees have no obligation to respond to their bosses and colleagues after working hours. Germany adopted such a law a few years ago.

There is something to be said for the right to disconnect. It is, literally, not healthy if your holiday is ruined because you are constantly working on project A or taskforce B while you are at the beach. Such a law might help to give you the peace and quiet you long for.

But there is something amiss. After a while I realised what’s wrong with the noble ambition to better separate work and private life.

But aren’t we throwing out the baby with the bathwater with such a hermetic separation? Isn’t it nice that people can organise their lives the way they want thanks to technological possibilities? That they can order groceries during working hours by using a grocery delivery app? That they can help a colleague in their spare time by sending a file he or she urgently needs?

It is not a problem that people are working in their spare time. It is also not a problem that people attend to private matters during working hours. The only possible problem is the risk of imbalance. In that case an employee doesn’t need a law but a good conversation.

And there is another drawback, which relates to the 24-hour economy we have developed. The world is organised around the 24-hour economy and such a new law is like agreeing that from now on rivers will flow from the sea to the mountains. It is a nice thought, but it is impracticable.

Such a law denies the reality. That is most evident in the relationship between contractors and customers. Those customers chose a particular supplier because of a nice product or competitive rates, yet ten to one that those customers particularly value the service. ‘You can always call them,’ a customer says about that supplier.

Which is exactly what customers say about August Bridge.

A discussion about the pros and cons of technological developments is a bit like talking about the pros and cons of gravity. Gravity is just as self-evident as the rapid developments in engineering and technology. Regardless of whether or not it would be a wise decision, we can’t just stop.

An acquaintance of mine recently had trouble with his laptop. ‘I miss my typewriter,’ he sighed. ‘You just put in a piece of paper, you type and that’s it.’ ‘Unless you make a typing error, because then you have to start all over again,’ I said, which resulted in a nostalgic discussion about Tipp-Ex.

August Bridge lives from technology yet is also frequently confronted with the imperfections of the complex world of information technology. You probably know all about it. Especially now you are working from home and there is no system administrator or other technician down the hall.

For example, you click on a button to print an invoice. That printer is not next to your laptop, but somewhere else. You may even know where that printer is, but you don’t know in which outsourced data centre or what cloud the file you want to print is stored. When you click on ‘Print’ an error message appears, and you realize there’s so much more you don’t know.

‘It doesn’t work,’ you tell a colleague on the phone. ‘There’s probably a problem with your browser or profile,’ he says. ‘Or you have a faulty internet connection. Try restarting your router.’ You shake your head. ‘There’s nothing wrong with my internet connection. Could it be the software? The programme we use for producing invoices? Or is it the connection between that software and the rest of our ERP system?’ There’s a pause at the other end of the line. ‘Do you have a good firewall? Hold on, does our company have such protection? Yes, surely?’

Ten minutes later you and your colleague have come up with ten to twenty other possibilities. And for each of those possibilities another department of your company is involved. Or another third party. You successively consider calling Microsoft, the internet provider, the, the company that implemented your ERP system, the hardware supplier and finally a therapist who is supposed the reduce your stress levels with a few mindfulness sessions.

‘The layout and implementation of our delivery notes, time sheets and invoices – that is done by August Bridge, right?’ you ask yourself. Indeed. So, give them a call. Even before we pick up the phone, you already know what we are going to say. ‘You are not at the right place. There is probably a problem with your browser, your internet connection, your data centre or you are just clumsy.’ A so-called “user error”.

It turns out better than expected. The August Bridge employee at the other end of the line says there are two possibilities. ‘The first possibility is that you are at the right place and we will solve the problem for you. The second possibility is that you have to turn to someone else, and we will find that who that someone is and how your problem can be solved as quickly as possible. So, please click on ‘Print’ again and tell us what happens.’