Even in “normal times” (yes it’s that phrase again!) it’s not uncommon for staff to have difficulty switching off from work at the end of the day. Everyone is just a message, video call, or email away from being brought into a work-related conversation, whether it’s relevant to them or not. This “always on” culture – which describes the blurriness between work and leisure time – long predates the pandemic. But it has put it into the spotlight.
Now that we’re all connecting to our colleagues, managers, friends, and family over video call, it’s even harder to disassociate between work and home. There’s also the issue of mismanaged expectations. Working from home is still completely new for some businesses, and leaders who are unsure how to manage a remote workforce may instead expect their staff to be available 24/7. It’s no wonder then that the “always on” feeling has been amplified.
Thankfully, there are a few practical steps you can take to help your staff – and you – transition from work to leisure time. Try these suggestions:
Set clear boundaries – and encourage staff to stick to them
It’s crucial that senior management lead by example. If they are sending emails day and night, employees might feel they are expected to do the same, making it very difficult for them to switch off during their leisure time.
Instead, set clear boundaries for out-of-hours communications and make these easily accessible on your employee intranet. For example, you could ban any work-related communication before and after office hours – with a 30 minute leeway – unless it’s a genuine emergency. You could also consider using a policy manager tool to formalise these guidelines and increase awareness.
Communicate with consideration
Is an urgent announcement sent to the entire company really the best way to ask your coworkers a question? Or would an internal message be more appropriate?
In the midst of a panic or deadline, it can be easy to spam everyone with communications in the hope that someone will answer. But this can distract and worry people who would otherwise not need to be involved.
Before hitting “send”, take a deep breath to consider the best communication tool to use, and who to communicate with. This can help both you and others to remain focussed and stress-free. Publishing a guide to communication etiquette, and sharing this on your intranet, can also help minimise disruption and clarify any confusion.
Be empathetic to those who are struggling
Some people struggle more than others to draw a line under their work day, and find that project worries, deadlines, or office politics leak into their home life.
Don’t let your staff suffer in silence. Be supportive and empathetic, and encourage employees to share their concerns with their line managers. Post links to advice and guidance on your intranet, and even schedule drop-in sessions to give staff the chance to share their tips for managing work-life balance. The more your company culture focuses on supporting your staff through challenging times, the better.