Information on demand. Constant connectivity. Global coverage. Are these a boon to our working lives? Or can there be too much of a good thing?
We live in a world of unprecedented connectivity. No matter where we are in the world, we have a host of information at our fingertips. Which is great when it comes to accessing vital data on the go, but could be having a detrimental impact on our personal lives.
The benefits of being constantly connected are easy to see. But it’s leading to a situation where people struggle to switch off when they’re not in the office. Checking emails on the way to work, or before going to sleep. Doing that “last bit of work” on the train home. Catching up on work over the weekend, or even the night before returning to work following a holiday.
Work phones and laptops, internet-based document storage and the increase in working from home leaves that bit of temptation to do a little bit more. After all, if you clear some of those emails tonight, you can start afresh tomorrow. Right?
Wrong! If this sounds familiar to you (and yes, there are plenty people in this position) then you should think hard about what you’re doing. No-one minds working beyond contract hours or staying a bit later when there’s urgent work to finish. But why, when there aren’t pressing deadlines, do we voluntarily give up our free time, weekends, or even our holidays to do extra work?
At best you get a reputation for not being able to switch off. At worst, it can impact on your personal life, and could even create an expectation that you’ll be on hand to respond to any query, no matter when it’s been sent.
Right to Disconnect?
Some countries are helping workers rebalance their scales. At the end of 2016, a new law was introduced in France, which meant that organisations had to give employees a “right to disconnect”. Companies had to work with employees to establish a basis for out-of-hours or home working, or make clear what expectations there were of workers.
In other European countries, companies are allowing employees to delete any emails that are sent to them while they are on holiday. Given the choice of a clean slate on your return to the office, it might also help remove temptation to access your inbox in your own time.
The Millennial generation is the first to really confront this issue (though this doesn’t mean other generations aren’t failing foul of it too). However, it’s hard to diagnose an issue until you know what it looks like. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek sheds light on some of the key points in this video.
(The key part is at 3:15, but if you have time, then it’s worth watching the whole video.)
So how do you change these habits and start to regain control of your work-life balance? Here are some top tips:
The Phone. Down.
It might not always be possible, but it’s time to create some space between you and your phone. It doesn’t need to be all the time, but having no-go areas in your home, or certain times when your phone is off is a good place to start.
If you have a dedicated work mobile, then leave it somewhere that you’ll just pick it up as you leave the house.
Why not start by not having your phone next to your bed overnight? This will help to remove the temptation to check emails first thing in the morning or last thing at night. It might help you sleep better and start your day off on the right foot.
Time Off is Your Time
You’ve earned the right to some downtime at the weekend. You’re entitled to your annual leave, and to enjoy it as time away from the office. And you’re entitled to be left in peace outside of working hours. Don’t voluntarily give this time up checking your email or finishing work.
It’s not always going to be cut and dried. But try to set yourself a time to stop working each evening, particularly on a Friday. This is particularly important if you work from home. Try to create a separation between work and home.
After all, does it really matter if that email is sent now, or document completed, when no-one else is going to see it until Monday anyway? Your brain will thank you for it (and your family/friends/loved ones probably will too!).
Stop and Smell the Roses
Life doesn’t have to be lived in front of a computer screen or glued to a phone. Get outside and enjoy spending some time away from your desk. Challenge your friends and family to leave their phones behind (or in a bag at least) when you’re out.
Keep phones, tablets, computers, and technology away from the dinner table. Who knows, we might even rediscover the lost art of conversation!
Some of this is tongue in cheek. Most of it needs to be taken with a healthy dose of realism and knowledge that we can’t just drop technology. But we can make it work for us, instead of making it seem like a completely indispensable aspect of our lives.
So take control of your technology, and tip your work-life balance scales back in your favour!