In today’s modern workplace, work is almost always on the mind. For many professionals, the line between their professional and their personal lives is blurred. Work emails are accessible on cell phones, giving employers, colleagues, and clients the ability to connect outside of the traditional 9-to-5 working hours. But is this really okay?
Many employers seek to attract future candidates by emphasizing their company’s strong work-life balance. But does that balance include a policy of unplugging outside of work hours? According to Inc.com, “56 percent of senior executives said they check work-related communications ‘almost constantly’ when they’re not in the office. Even while on vacation, 85 percent of respondents check messages at least once or twice a day. Only 3 percent said they go completely off the grid.”
As an owner or management level employee, turning off your connection to work may seem impossible. Expecting the same from your employees may seem acceptable in your mind, but to them, work should end at the end of their set work hours. So how do you establish healthy boundaries into your company’s culture while making sure all the work gets done?
One solution is for companies to reduce their personal expectations for offline or out-of-office communication and clarify it in writing. Stating a clear understanding of the mutual respect of someone’s time outside of the office will eliminate the need for clarity on when it’s acceptable and not acceptable to answer an email.
A great example of how a formal written policy can actually work has been proven by San Diego-based food company, Perfect Snacks. According to an Inc.com interview with CEO of Perfect Snacks, Bill Keith, “At Perfect Snacks, meetings may not be scheduled before 9 am or after 4 pm from Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, there are no meetings at all, and everyone is encouraged to go home at 2 pm. The company’s 100-plus employees are also required to set an automated out-of-office response on their email accounts when they’re out sick or on vacation, with contact information for a colleague who can respond to any urgent requests on their behalf.” He went on to say, “We want to make sure that when folks come in here, we’re breaking any bad habits they have, and creating those boundaries for their professional and personal lives.”
Setting these boundaries allows each participating party to have clear expectations of one another. Just as someone wouldn’t expect a mail delivery person to deliver their mail at midnight just because it’s there, they shouldn’t expect someone to answer work communications outside of work hours.
As an employer, enforcing an “unplug” policy will aid in showcasing you as someone who cares about more than just numbers, deadlines, and the bottom line. Encouraging employees to have time for themselves outside of work uplifts their spirit and decreases their stress. According to a study by CareerBuilder, “Nearly a third of workers say work causes them high or extremely high levels of stress. The ever-connected, ‘always on’ culture is often a contributing factor to increased stress, and can also lead to workers feeling fatigued, less satisfied with their jobs, and even burned out.”
Implementing a formal “unplug” policy can bring your company to the next level when recruiting and onboarding. Encouraging a real work-life balance throughout your company will attract the kind of talent you want to excel your company to the next level and increase employee retention, saving you both time and money.