The danger of always being switched on

achieving work life balance

Business ownership rates in the UK are increasing at a rapid pace. According to National Statistics from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy “There were a record 5.7 million private sector businesses at the start of 2017” which represents an increase of 2.2 million more private sector businesses than in 2000. The marked increase in privately owned business, in combination with the advancements in technology, forces business owners to increasingly feel tethered to their work obligations and staff. What happens when you can no longer ‘turn off’ when away from the office? Will the business truly suffer if you don’t take that call? Will your staff flounder if you haven’t replied to an email? Here are some key facts and recommendations for balancing work and home life

Identify the issue

Employers and employees alike admit to regularly using mobile phones and technology outside of the workplace. First Psychology Scotland in their research study ‘The impact of technology on work-life balance and wellbeing’ note startling changes in behaviours over the past 20 years since the introduction of work-home merging. When asked where and how often they breached the out of office timeline, respondents indicated:

Situation Yes (%)

In the evenings 89.44

On days off 81.99

On holiday 52.17

First thing in the morning 93.96

During social events 30.20

During meals 19.46

Know the signs

Work-related stress can increase risks for health-related disorders and mental health problems. The Health and Safety Executive recommends that employers be vigilant in looking for signs of stress in themselves and their employees. High blood pressure, excessive illness, depression and fatigue can all be signs that intervention may be necessary. The Mental Health Foundation recommends that taking time to unplug and unwind can reduce stress levels.

Acknowledge the risks and rewards

Productivity can be affected significantly due to lost days of work, and knowing when to ‘disconnect’ can reduce stress, and also increasing work-based performance. According to the HSE “12.5 million working days [were] lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17”. A break from working can actually improve productivity.

Make a plan to disconnect

Dr Christine Grant, in her interview for the BBC article Smartphone stress: Are you a victim of ‘always on’ culture? notes “There is a massive anxiety about relinquishing control,” she says. “In my research, I found a number of people who were burnt out because they were travelling with technology all the time, no matter what time zone they were in.” Keeping a second phone dedicated to work-only contact encourages the ability to turn off during dedicated after-hours or work free times.

Follow through and follow up

The blurred lines between workplace and time away have an obvious impact on a business owner and employees alike. Knowing how to efficiently utilise the increased availability of technology and create a balance of time management can create a more positive environment in all areas of life. Create and stick to a plan that encourages healthy behaviours.

There is certainly the opportunity for today’s business owner to be connected, present, productive and still maintain a personal quality of life. These same opportunities should be encouraged for employees as well.

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