Modern technology is wonderful when used properly. Like any other wonderful tool, technology can also cause or magnify problems. All valuable employees must have the skill to use workplace technology efficiently. However, you must not allow technology to upset your work-life balance equation.
Work-Life Balance Is Critical for Successful Professionals
Many highly successful employers appear to misunderstand the value of balancing their employees’ work and life situations. MRI Network conducted a fairly recent survey, polling diverse employees (over 500 people) in many companies about their perception of employer views on work-life balance issues. A strong 70 percent of respondents felt their employers did not emphasize good work-life balance for their staff.
A troubling 65 percent of respondents stated they “frequently” worked after normal hours. Another 19 percent indicated they “sometimes” worked beyond normal workplace hours. Only five percent responded that they “never” worked outside of the business day.
The recent deep recession heightened this issue, as many employees were forced to extend their workdays after layoffs and downsizing. Technology made this possible, but not necessarily beneficial. As those people who often work at home understand, separating the work process from personal time is very important. If your efforts to please management and establish yourself as a valuable employee result in using technology to become a 24/7 employee, you risk declining performance and personal problems.
Numerous scientific and professional studies show that all employees perform better when they have a good balance of work and personal time activities. Technology, as wonderful as it may be, can disrupt this critical balance. Since you can be “connected” to your workplace at all times, there is a heightened temptation to further display your value at inappropriate times.
Commit to Setting Valuable “Boundaries” Between Work and Home
First the idea; then the commitment, then the action. Believing in and then committing to establishing work-home boundaries will benefit you now and in the future. The simple, or difficult, solution:
Unless you’re officially “on call,” eliminate work e-mails, text messages, and cell phone calls from your home schedule and activities.
A 2003 Michigan State University study found that most people were happier when they separated their work and personal responsibilities with boundaries and guidelines than those employees that remained connected to work responsibilities while at home. This study further reinforces the importance of the work-life balance equation.
An important, yet sometimes overlooked indicator is children. When your children see you working on your home computer in the evening, they sometimes become confused and unhappy that you are physically at home, but mentally elsewhere. This is more a “feeling” than an analysis, but just as important.
Setting reasonable boundaries between work and home necessities works to maintain an effective personality balance. Many employers will typically endorse, but not mandate that you use technology to take and complete work at home. In these situations, it can be challenging to maintain commitment to both your work and home boundaries. Yet, it is important that you do so.
Resist the strong temptation to allow superior technology to blur the work-home boundaries that you’ve set. You cannot risk hurting your life equation any more than you should risk your professional career at the workplace.
There will be situations that require you to use this technology to help you complete important projects while away from the workplace. However, establishing a habit of consistently using this ability at the expense of peaceful home situations is a mistake.
An interesting—and troubling—statistic indicates that employees that allow technology to over step work-life boundaries receive less recognition and/or lower evaluations than those employees that enforce their work-life restrictions. Setting your work versus home boundaries are more important than some might expect. You’ll be happier and more productive if you self-enforce work-home guidelines and boundaries.