How not to let connected comms take over your work-life balance

Technology has changed the world of work, and an ‘always on’ mentality with blurred work and home boundaries has made it more difficult for employees to disconnect from their jobs. As a result, workers' mental health has suffered, and their time away from work in some cases has reduced or been impacted.

Prior to the pandemic, there were already concerns about how technology would affect employees' working lives. In a 2017 study, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that nearly a third of UK workers felt they couldn't switch off in their personal time while working remotely.

According to the study, which surveyed 2,000 people, two-fifths of workers admitted to actively checking their work mobile or emails at least five times per day outside of working hours. Meanwhile, one-fifth of people in the study reported that workplace surveillance made them anxious or had an impact on their sleep quality.

However, as the pandemic spread, workers spent more time working while at home. According to the Office for National Statistics, people who did any work from home over this period did six hours of unpaid overtime per week on average in 2020, compared to just over three hours for those who never worked from home.

Duncan Ward, Chief Executive Officer at Enreach UK said, "flexible working is more than just working from home; it is a fundamental shift in working practises that will improve the lives of all working people.

“Connect comms allow SME businesses to create a sense of community among distributed teams. It makes people feel more involved and provides everyone in your company with a voice; an opportunity to share their ideas, knowledge, and experience with their coworkers.

“However, the approach needs to be on work that is flexible and fits around people's lives, rather than controlling their lives or impacting their personal time."

While hybrid working has quickly become the new normal, it remains unfamiliar to many around what the phrase truly means, and how you can ensure a hybrid approach to your work-life balance doesn’t end up tipping it towards the work side of the scales. Some of the following approaches have been recommended to help draw the lines and understand when and where connected communications can help, and not hinder the work-life balance.

Excellent Communication

Excellent communication reduces the amount of time employees spend working outside of normal business hours, allowing them to disconnect and implement a positive work-life balance.

Regular Exercise

Exercise is good for your physical and mental health, and it can help you sleep better. While working remotely, you could use the time you would have spent commuting to get some exercise. It is critical that you find something you enjoy doing, whether it is walking, running, cycling, or yoga.

Avoid long hours of screen time

If your workdays include a lot of screen time, taking some time away from your phone, tablet, laptop, and TV in the evening helps to create a barrier between these two aspects of your life. If possible, delay any work-related notifications until the next workday so you are not tempted to read them as soon as they arrive on your phone. If possible, have a dedicated work phone and avoid the temptation of setting things up on personal devices.

Keep work at work

Having one area designated as a workspace allows you to keep your home as a home, a place of comfort, and relaxation.

It is also extremely important to take annual leave to help to alleviate the risk of burnout and exhaustion. Not only will this lift spirits and motivation, but it will also ensure you can perform to your best ability.

It is evident that people's work/life balance may become distorted because of the shift toward hybrid remote work. If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it is that 'work' is what we do, not where we go, but this also poses challenges in terms of ensuring productivity, application, team morale and collaboration.

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