Leadership through work-life balance

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I enjoy going to professional networking events for women, from time to time. It’s a familiar formula of 50-100 young women eager to conquer the world, and network with each other, listening intently to a panel of three esteemed role-models who have traveled the same road a few decades earlier. Regardless of what topic is usually discussed, there’s inevitably the question of work-life balance, how does one do it all, what about motherhood, etc. For the longest time, it seemed like work-life balance was something only women with children had to consider. While it is definitely a major challenge to balance child-rearing and professional obligations, it is not the only time we should consider the quality of our work-life balance. For that matter, it is not only women who should be thinking about it either. I will explore improving work-life balance in a series of four posts.

  1. Technology- a blessing and a curse.
  2. Leaving the office on time, getting to the office on time.
  3. What is it that one should do after work anyways?
  4. Dealing with the feelings of guilt..

Technology – a blessing and  curse

It seems that the internet and mobile phones have been part of our lives for so long, that we almost forget (or can’t imagine) life without them. Arguably, technology has made it easier for us to accomplish more tasks than ever before. It has also made it easier for us to be distracted and waste time on any number of non-value adding activities.

In the workplace – technology has allowed us to be a bit less “chained to a desk” and a bit more ” stretching resistance bands” away from it. What I mean by that, is that we can increasingly do our work away from the office, such as work from home, or the local Starbucks. If your employer allows you the flexibility to work from anywhere, I would strongly suggest you take advantage of it, even if you can walk to work and don’t have a long commute, etc. You’ll find that working from home is actually more productive that being in the office, sometimes.

Beyond mobility, the workplace has also integrated cell phones into our work life, with various degrees of success. In the Blackberry glory days, some jokingly referred to it as a “crack-berry” to describe those who were taking their work with them everywhere they went. If your employer pays for you to have a mobile device, there’s an expectation that you’ll be reachable on it…within work hours or for emergencies. Sending and responding to emails at 11pm is not productive and does not really free up a lot of your time. Consider changing your email push notifications to hourly, or once every 4 hours instead of instantly. This will curb your needs to constantly be checking it.

Additionally, consider communicating your cell phone usage with your colleagues, and your boss. In our household we have a strict, no- cell phones at the dinner table or in the bedroom policy . I openly share this with my colleagues and most see this as a positive habit. It also creates the expectation that I’m not on my cell phone after work. If there really is an urgent matter, one can always call.

If your employer does not pay for your cell phone, it means it is not necessary for you to have access to your work email remotely. So why do it?

Ultimately, regardless of whether you have or don’t have a work cell phone. If there really is an emergency, anyone will call rather than send an email.

There are any number of pros and cons for the ways technology has impacted our work lives. Consider how technology benefits you and enables you to be productive and successful, but also think about the ways it detracts from value-adding activities. If you are finding yourself impulsively refreshing your inbox waiting to hear back about the latest crisis, try focusing on other activities rather than revel in the emotional turmoil.

In conclusion: 3 ways to maximize technology at work

  1. Work remotely/from home sometimes (if you can). Also, don’t forget to at least ask your employer if this is an option.
  2.  Moderate your email use on your mobile device and change your push settings to less frequent. Try 15mins or hourly, rather than instantly.
  3. Communicate your lifestyle preferences with your colleagues so they can develop the right expectations. The days when being always on was beneficial are behind us now.

In part 2 of this series, we’ll tackle the punching-in punching-out conundrum.

Mariya Yurukova

Mariya Yurukova