Tips for disconnecting and setting boundaries - why is this so difficult?
Now that employers are offering workers these awesome benefits of collaboration and flexibility, we need to learn to manage them? Manage the employees? No, that’s the manager's job. The employees need to learn how to manage their work when it’s accessible every minute of the day, seven days a week. You don’t have to love your job to struggle with this. If work is available to do, it might seem like a better option than doing chores at the house or running errands. The fact that work is always available in today’s day and age means that it is also unavoidable.
To live healthy, well-balanced lives, we need to find a way to switch off. Whether that means turning off your computer at a certain hour or taking regular breaks, your brain and your friends and family deserve to rest. So how do you draw the lines in the sand for work not to cross? Read on to find out some of the tips for disconnecting that Lauren Whitt, Google's Head of Global Resilience, suggests.
Tip 1: Avoid sending non-urgent messages after a certain time
Obvious, right? Just turn it off.
Easier said than done.
If you work in an office, this is pretty straightforward. Only do emails on your work computer and leave your work computer at the office when you are finished for the day. Don’t put your work email on your phone or any other of your personal devices.
For the new generation of workers, this is much more difficult. Workers often work with their own devices and need to be constantly available for their colleagues or customers. Therefore they need to schedule their time properly and set expectations with the people they work with regarding when a good contact time is.
Tip 2: Model healthy detachment
There are four ways to achieve this, according to Google:
- Leave the office at a reasonable hour
- Incorporating more movement into the day
- Taking short mini-breaks every 90 minutes
- Logging out of work-related communication when you’re off the clock
The first item only really applies to you if you work in an office. You can do the other three no matter where you are working from. All of the methods of achieving healthy detachment seem reasonable here and could be practiced with relative ease.
Tip 3: Check in with employees on work-life balance
This rule only really applies to you if you are managing people. It’s necessary to check in with your staff every once in a while to see if they are happy with the way they are working. See if they are struggling to detach from work. Ask them about things that they like to do outside of work. Check in to make sure they don’t feel overworked at any time.
It could even be as simple as helping them prioritize their work. Sometimes one of the biggest drivers of a poor work-life balance is trying to do everything that is asked of you in a short period. Instead, employees should do the most important items first to create more time for themselves. Occasionally, distinguishing what these important work items are will take a combined effort from the employee and the manager.
Tip 4: Use a shared calendar solution
Shared calendars will help you achieve a few things. In general, they help you see what other members of your team are up to throughout the day. This can help save time when trying to book meetings with them as it avoids the typical back and forth communication of “Are you available at 5?” “No, I have another meeting then.”
Most importantly, though, shared calendars allow employees to set boundaries. With a shared calendar, you can block off sections of your day for personal reasons or breaks. Then, when coworkers try to schedule a meeting with you, they will see that you are busy and unable to attend. In addition, if an employee sends you an email and wonders why you are not replying, they can quickly check your calendar to see that you are busy that day and likely won’t have time to respond until the next day.
Tip 5: Be open to flexible work arrangements
This goes back to our previous post about work flexibility and collaboration, which also touched on tips for disconnecting. The new generation of workers is demanding flexible working hours and locations to get their work done. These benefits are becoming more and more common across different industries, but not everyone is giving in to the demands.
Allowing your employees to work from anywhere at least a few days per week helps them achieve a stronger work-life balance. Research shows that burnout happens less when employees can arrange their own work time, and the organization focuses on results rather than working hours.
The future of work is now
Employers must offer a healthy environment to encourage employees to achieve work-life balance along with flexibility and collaboration. Once employers set the environment, it is up to employees to take advantage of the offered benefits and schedule their time appropriately between work and their personal lives.
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