If you're like many people these days, work does not end when you head home from the office. The ease of access and connectivity that our devices provide us with makes it increasingly difficult to truly "leave" work at the end of the day. It may seem like being able to stay constantly connected to your work through your personal devices would allow you to operate more efficiently. However, as Scott Spiro, Founder and President of Computer Solutions Group, Inc. communicated at Navigate 2015 in Las Vegas, the exact opposite happens. When you don't have a healthy balance between your work life and your life OUTSIDE of work, there are negative repercussions on both ends.
In his presentation, Spiro detailed why being constantly connected to your work is not a good thing for you or your business, and suggested tips for improving your work life balance. Here's how to lead by example and support this initiative at your own company.
The Problem with Being Constantly Connected
The first issue that arises when you are "glued to your screens" is that your attention span begins to deteriorate. When you're used to receiving brief bits of information in real time, it can be difficult to concentrate on something that requires an investment of time. The Internet provides us with repetitive, intensive and addictive sensory and cognitive stimuli. This kind of information fosters hurried and distracted thinking and superficial learning. The technology does NOT reward deep thinking. Lets say for example you need to review a contract with a new client. If your attention span has grown shorter due to the ease of access that you're used to, you're likely to experience lapses in your concentration and an inability to really process the information that you review.
Still, a reliance on your devices can harm more than just your ability to focus at work. It can also detach you from close friends or loved ones. How many times have you had a conversation with someone only to realize that they weren't listening to a word you said because they were too busy focusing on their cell phone or tablet? How many times have you been guilty of this? If this is a constant occurrence at home, you are going to damage relationships with your family and friends. When you leave the office for the day, "unplug" and go home to your life OUTSIDE of work. Of course, there are some circumstances where you will need to be available. Still, the goal should be to ask yourself at the end of the day, "If I don't answer another email or phone call tonight, will my business still be here in the morning?" If the answer is yes (which it hopefully should be), you should focus on switching from "work mode" to "home mode" when you leave the office.
The Benefits of "Disconnecting"
When you're at home and able to disconnect from work, you can actually increase productivity when you return to work the next day. Coming into the office with a well-rested and refreshed mind will allow you to more effectively manage the issues or tasks that you may have otherwise tried to quickly resolve while at home. Do you need more help improving your work life balance to drive business results? Perhaps the most captivating portion of Spiro's Navigate presentation was his list of the "Top 5 Tips to Greater Productivity," which we've shared below.
1. Don't check your e-mail in the morning
If you feel like you need to improve your work life balance, start with email. Many people will check their email first thing in the morning. Try abandoning this habit, and wait until you get into the office to go through your emails. This will allow you to craft thoughtful and accurate responses or solutions, instead of forcing you to fire off a quick mobile reply while trying to find your keys in the morning.
2. Tone down your desktop & mobile alerts
There is nothing more distracting than the little messages that appear in the top right corner of your computer monitor. Ideally, you would be able to eliminate these workplace distractions all together, but sometimes a reminder that a meeting is coming up can be helpful. Instead, try making a list of all of your desktop and mobile notifications, and eliminate the ones that aren't absolutely necessary. You'll be amazed at how much this will cut down on distractions and improve your ability to focus on and complete a task.
3. Daily themes
Try breaking down your business into five general themes. Assign one of these themes to a day of the week and add those themes to your work calendar, Monday through Friday. Now, when you head into work on any given day, you will have a theme in front of you and will know that an added focus should be given in that area on that day. Having a different theme each day ensures all important business areas receive proper time and resources. Lets say for example that Friday's theme is "Company Culture." Perhaps you provide coffee to your employees on this day, or send out a company newsletter that recognizes a few employees that have been going above and beyond.
Below are the themes that Spiro used during his presentation at Navigate.
You might be thinking to yourself, "I have way too much to do to be able to stop working at home or focusing on a theme." This is completely understandable. Your job requires a lot of attention. But who ever said you had to do it all on your own? Outsource some of those daily tasks that are taking up too much of your time. Perhaps you can hand off your scheduling or note-taking at meetings. You need to be working ON your business instead of IN your business.
Additionally, partnering with third-party vendors can make "unplugging" so much easier. Think of it this way, wouldn't you be more at ease knowing that when you leave for the day, you have a team of highly-skilled Network Operations Center (NOC) technicians monitoring your clients' endpoints, or a dedicated, certified and domestic Help Desk available to answer client calls? Partnering with third-party vendors can bring you the peace of mind necessary to leave work at the door when you head out for the day.
5. Disconnect to Reconnect
Finally, you need to set and follow the precedent that employees are able to walk away from work at the end of the day and be excited to head home. Prioritize family activities or time for yourself. Why not make it a rule in your home that there are to be no devices at the dinner table? You could also try setting weekly or monthly activities with your friends and family.
If you're serious about improving your work life balance, stick to these guidelines as you would stick to the rules in your office. They are just as important and can go a LONG way toward creating a healthy work life balance.
Are you interested in speaking at Navigate 2016, next year's MSP user conference in Boston? We're taking applications!
Falling for these classic mistakes? You could be making more work for yourself.