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Is constant contact damaging our work/life balance

Creating a healthy balance between work and life is a tightrope that a lot of workers fail to successfully navigate

Modern technology has evolved to a stage where we are constantly connected through our computers, tablets, and phones. We don’t just take our work home with us; we take it everywhere we go. As we have already reported on Recruiting Times, overtime can have ill effects on your physical and mental health.

Last year the French government brought in a ‘right to disconnect’ law that required companies with over 50 employees to set out periods that employees were not required to send or answer emails. The goal of the law was to ensure that employees had a legal right to not work while out of work hours or on holiday. The UK currently doesn’t have a similar law with Real Business informing that the companies right to contact employees out of hours is a contractual issue.

It takes effort to avoid emails and messages from work now that the majority of people working in an office use a smartphone. We live in a constant plugged-in work culture where there is no excuse to not see and respond to the latest email. Internet connectivity is now a key feature of any phone plan. O2 detail how free Wi-Fi with every SIM package is now common place because of the high number of smartphone owners and the competition that exists in the mobile industry.

A phone that can access emails is not only expected in today’s work culture, it has almost become a requirement. The excuse “my phone wasn’t on” doesn’t fly anymore. Employees are expected to be on call 24/7. With the Independent stating that 40% of people check their work emails everyday it is clear that constant contact is damaging our work/life balance. The paper pointed to a report that found a fifth of employees felt like they were under constant surveillance.

Dr. Christine Grant of Occupational Psychology at Coventry University told the Independent: “lack of time to rest and having trouble with sleep are the most concerning aspects of these findings – that has a hugely detrimental impact on wellbeing.”

The question is what can employers and employees do to fight this work culture? Employers can do two things. The first is to set out clear terms in contracts regarding out of hours contact. The second is to redefine the work culture and create a culture where it is not expected for employees to be on constant call. Nobody wants to answer emails in their free time and most will only feel compelled to do it if they believe it is expected of them. For employees it is about making sure you keep the divide between work and life clear.

It is easy to get trapped into thinking that you must do it to stay ahead. A burnt out employee is no good for their health or the company’s. If it is the work culture to answer emails out of hours then you can either speak to your boss or contact the HR department and look for a way forward. The digital revolution has opened up business in many positive ways. Yet it is important that employees don’t get over burdened or feel pressured to be on call after their work hours end.

This article has been written by Aliana Cathy who has spent many years writing about business practices across the globe. She believes that it is important that employers and employees are aware of the constant developments in technology. 

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