4 Work–life balance and overload
Section 3 touched on some aspects of work–life balance and overload. This section will look at the day-to-day practicalities of managing these issues in a hybrid working environment.
Mobile digital technologies, smart devices, superfast broadband and cloud computing mean that for many people, work is now just a click away, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This ‘always-on’ culture makes it challenging to maintain effective workload management and keep a healthy work–life balance. This challenge was intensified by the pandemic forcing many of us to create an ‘office’ within our own homes.
In a recent CIPD (2020) survey, 86% of respondents identified the ‘inability to switch off during out-of-work hours’ as the main negative effect of technology on wellbeing. This was closely followed by the stress resulting from technology failure (70%).
To maintain our wellbeing in the face of all this, we need strategies in place to stop us burning out.
In the following video Grace Emiohe from The Open University shares her experiences of maintaining her own wellbeing.
Activity 7 Monitoring your online/onscreen working time
If working remotely for some or all of your time has meant that you’re not sticking rigidly to traditional office hours, it’s important to keep track of how long you are spending online/onscreen, to ensure you don’t unintentionally become an always-on worker.
Over the next week, try to make a note of your ‘screen time’, whether that’s using a computer (desktop or laptop), a tablet, a smartphone or any other kind of work-related digital technology. Count each device separately. You might want to take a break from the screen to record your time with a pen and paper!
Pay particular attention to times when you weren’t planning to work, but the affordances of technology meant that you ended up doing it anyway. For example, when you were sat on your sofa watching TV in the evening, but had your smartphone next to you, and when a work notification popped up, you couldn’t stop yourself from checking it.
Also try to note whether you felt that the online/onscreen time was particularly positive (e.g. it made you feel satisfied at your productivity) or negative (e.g. reading ‘out-of-hours’ emails made you feel stressed or angry). If it caused no strong feelings either way, you don’t need to note that.
At the start of the week make a note of what you expect the balance to be, then at end of the week, review your notes to identify how much time you spent online/onscreen, and what impact the emotional responses you noted had on your wellbeing.
Make some notes summarising your experience, including whether the balance was as you expected, in the box below.
Did you record more or less time than you expected?
Were the activities that caused negative emotions (if any) unavoidable, or could you take action to reduce these?
Did any of the activities create a positive sense of connection or community with your colleagues? Or were there things you felt would have been done more effectively in person/away from a screen?