The increase in concern over burnout and overwhelm and the breakdown of the work-life balance is very real.
Technology is a double-edged sword; for every advance and for every connection made, for every time zone broken down, we are more available and more accessible than ever. The flip side? We find it more and more difficult to switch off. To escape.
We are so wonderfully lucky to live in such a technologically enlightened age. Many of us can remember the Internet being invented and may recall a time where letters and faxes were the modus operandi, and the response time for many queries was days, not minutes.
Now, we access our work emails on our phones, our social media accounts for our business too, and we are faced with a constant barrage of information that we carry in our pockets. Clients often expect a swift response, and we are increasingly putting pressure on ourselves to grant them this, even when we were meant to be finished for the day.
So how do we switch off?
I would argue that we don’t.
What we need to do is to use technological system to create that barrier again so that we as business owners and our team can switch off. This may mean providing a work phone that has the business social media, email and number on it, that gets switched off at the end of the working day. You could pop a footnote in your email signature that says something like, ‘Please note that after hours emails may not be answered until the next working day.’
Take a good look at the systems in your business.
We are so good at using technology, but is there anything else that can be automated to make us more efficient so that our workloads are more streamlined, freeing us up to finish on time and to switch off?
There is also a danger in embracing technology too firmly. Make sure you don’t use technology as a barrier between yourself and your team. Email & Slack are wonderfully effective for communication, but make sure that you keep the human element.
Walk around the office and check in with your team, make it a morning routine to just see how your team are. It’s amazing what you can pick up face-to-face that you miss through an email. The signs of stress and burnout might be overlooked otherwise.
Pick up the phone to those who are remote.
Have regular, scheduled in-person ‘How’s it going?’ chats. Keep those lines of communication and feedback open throughout your business and listen to your team.
Another factor which is important to address is the culture of your business. It is imperative not to passively encourage overtime, especially if there’s no reward. An estimated £31 billion worth of overtime was given by workers the UK in 2017 (Survey by the TUC). That’s hours of unpaid overtime, and only 10% said they did this for the love of the job. Did the other 90% feel pressure to donate their free time from unseen pressures? It is thought so.
Encourage your team to leave on time. Make sure they don’t work through their lunch breaks. Make sure they take their holiday. When you’re seen to be looking out for the wellbeing of your team, the morale and the productivity will skyrocket. Great for them, brilliant for you.
Foster a culture of positivity and progress, with clear work and life boundaries