Using Tech to Create a Better Work-Life Balance
Setting the Right Boundaries Can Improve Your Mental Health At Work. Here Are My Top Work-Life Balance Tips for Online Working.
When businesses went fully online during the pandemic, I noticed that some of my team members were online all hours of the night — and it was alarming. As someone who has been running global teams for more than a decade, I am aware that our agency is “always on,” but this shouldn’t mean that my team members are working more than their share of reasonable hours.
I realized that as a leader I need to prioritize setting boundaries with my people and enabling them to do the same. I need to accurately communicate the expectations of the business and myself, while managing workloads to make healthy working hours possible.
Overworking is not just a pandemic problem. Rather, the pandemic heightened my awareness of the lack of balance between work and life prevalent in today’s professional space. This has historically been felt more by women, who bear the burden of the expectation that they must balance their work life with raising children and (unpaid) domestic labor. The problem persists. A May 2022 report from Ohio State University indicates that 68% of working moms feel burnt out, compared to 42% of dads.
Using Tech for Good
WE Communications’ newly published Brands in Motion global report, The Bravery Mandate: Make It Real, finds that 59% of people believe brands should prioritize employee well-being. Your employees are your most important audience and your most valuable resource. And, in terms of how best to prioritize the mental wellness of employees, 60% believe in the importance of work-life balance.
While advancements in tech have enabled flexible working, they have also blurred the line between the home office and the living room. Tech has become overwhelming — we are flooded with emails and texts daily, and our work laptop has invaded our personal living space. We quite literally carry our work around with us on our mobile phones, which are like extensions of our physical selves. However, the same tools that allow work to seep into our home life can be utilized to set the very boundaries that stop it from doing so.
We may not be able to (or want to) rid ourselves of the home office, but we can ensure that it remains an office at home rather than an office infiltrating the home.
Tech-Driven Work-Life Balance Tips
Here are four useful tech tricks that help me keep my work and personal life in a healthy balance in the work-from-home-era:
1. I schedule meetings with myself.
I set aside time for lunch and gym to make sure I look after myself physically and mentally. I also set aside “available office hours” where my team knows I’m online and specifically available for connecting.
Of course, this is only possible if your work environment is balanced and your workload is stable. As leaders, we need to ensure that employees are given manageable workloads and can find the time each day for a proper lunch break, time to exercise. Time to rest, reset, recover.
2. I use inbox filters to sort my emails by subject.
Is your email inbox a black hole of anxiety and doom? For too many people it is. As someone who receives a couple hundred emails a day, I find that sorting my emails by subject helps me manage my time and replies.
Make a habit of keeping your email subjects searchable with specific dates and names. Mute your notifications to reduce distractions, set aside certain times of the day to check your emails, and create email rules (you can automatically send emails from certain recipients to custom inboxes).
You can also extend the time you have to unsend an email! This will reduce the anxiety you may have around sending emails to the wrong recipients or with typos.
3. I fully disconnect from work when spending time with my family.
Having time to rest and reset is incredibly important. We are human beings, not robots. Rest allows our brains to recharge, making us more creative and productive when we do work again.
Placing your phone in airplane mode while having family dinner or spending time with loved ones will prevent any messages — personal or professional — from distracting you.
For managers and leaders, make use of the schedule send function to have emails go to employees only during work hours. This will create a healthier work environment and won’t distract employees from their personal time.
4. My "out of office" email means it.
I said it above and I’ll say it again — rest is incredibly important. We all need time to switch off and relax or go somewhere new or do something fun. When I take time off work, I make sure to set an out-of-office reply with my team’s contact details for emergency requests.
I also schedule my OOO replies to stop only at the end of my first day back. That way, I can spend the day catching up on email and work without being pressured to respond to everyone immediately. Some people don’t even bother replying to emails at all, opting instead to include a note in their OOO that if an email is important, resend it when they’re back in the office.
Going on holiday and taking time off should not be paired with the anxiety of coming back to a couple hundred emails and outstanding tasks. We should be striving toward a work environment that is balanced and reasonable.
A better work-life balance will benefit your business and your people.
An estimated 12 billion workdays (valued at nearly a trillion dollars!) are lost each year due to stress, anxiety and depression, according to newly released employee mental-health guidelines from the World Health Organization. A healthy and happy work environment will also reduce “quiet quitting,” where employees cede to only doing the absolute bare minimum due to burnout and unhappiness. Employers have the responsibility — and the ability — to lead with empathy and create a more balanced work environment. As managers, we need to lead by example and set boundaries so that we do not add to the cacophony of challenges life throws at our people.
I want my employees to know and believe that their promotional path is not tethered to the number of late nights they have worked. Leaders need to shift the paradigm that working overtime is an aspiration. Instead, reward balance. It’s more than just quality over quantity — it’s quality that doesn’t require quantity.
In the end, we shouldn’t have to fit life into work; our work should fit into our lives.