The lines between work and home were already starting to get blurred with the advent of technology, but since working from home became the norm for so many teams, those boundaries are weaker now than ever before.
Worryingly, research by the Chartered Management Institute in 2015 found that UK employees canceled out their entire annual leave by checking emails on smartphones outside of work hours… and the UK takes considerably more annual leave than the US.
In fact, though the US has long been proud of its hustle culture, not all nations see long hours in the same way. Included in Professor Claudia Hammond’s book The Art of Rest is a survey of Italians vs Americans, which found that when shown a fictitious man’s busy work schedule, Americans perceived him as being of higher status. The Italians, however, felt otherwise: they actually viewed the man as having lower income, due to his having to work long hours.
Long hours might be celebrated here in the US, but the benefits of disconnecting are hard to ignore:
- There’s evidence that even significantly more time off, Europeans’ productivity is still very much comparable to the outputs of the US.
- According to an internal study by EY (formerly Ernst & Young), for every additional 10 hours of vacation an employee took, their year-end performance improved by 8%.
- A 2019 study in the Netherlands found that those who are able to disconnect from work – disconnect physically, emotionally, and cognitively – enjoyed better energy levels, improved sleep cycles, greater concentration, and overall more positive moods. All essential for great work.
So with our health, happiness, and work performance all being harmed by overwork culture, how do we disconnect from work and making sure our staff follows our lead?
Turn Off Your Work Cellphone… or Delete Work Apps During Downtime
It’s too easy to glance at notifications of an evening or weekend, even though most of us know the experience of family frustration when we’re not logged off. If you’ve not got a work cellphone, ensure you delete apps and switch off your work computer to create as much distance between you and your work as possible. If one of Zapier’s managers can prove that Slack notifications can be switched off on workdays, and she did, we should all be able to turn off work communications when we’re not at, you guessed it, work.
Include Your Work Hours in Your Email Signature
A simple way to keep everyone up to speed, adding your work hours to your email signature is great for you and your coworkers. For them, it’s clarity on when you’re available, and when you are not. For you, it’s a powerful reminder that these are your hours, and you should stick to them as much as anyone else. (And you’ll be surprised by how many people tell you what a great idea that is.)
Make Plans That Make It Hard To Get Back Into Work Mode
Sure, going out every night might not be practical or possible, but there are still commitments you can make to get you connected to your downtime. During the workweek could look like explicit plans to watch a specific TV show with your partner, roomie, or family. It could be signing up for a class that keeps emails far from your mind; maybe that’s mindful yoga, or even back-breaking cardio. Whatever you commit to, try and limit technology to a minimum to really switch off.
Take Breaks at Work… Yes, Really
British newspaper the Independent covered six US work habits that “people in other countries think are ridiculous,” and included research that says four out of five Americans eat lunch at their desks, if they take them at all… and highlighted that the US has not formally embraced coffee breaks, either. There are some great Pomodoro timer apps out there that harness the productivity benefits of taking breaks in a technique that forces users to stop and take stock after a set window of time. Breaks keep us fresh, ready to tackle tough tasks with renewed mental energy.
Create Out-of-Work Policies for Your Team
As managers, no one plays a greater role in building the culture of a team. That means it’s not enough to lead by example: giving concrete, universal expectations on when your team should be offline will revolutionize the way they value being offline. Great leaders are able to invest in their team, which means investing in their right to happy, healthy vacations and weekends. Make sure everyone knows that they should leave their tech alone outside of their working hours.
Have an End of Day Ritual
…and an end of week one, too. When our desks are in our homes, creating routines that feel like we’re leaving the office can be tough, but it’s still totally possible to form a sequence that makes us feel like we’ve commuted away from work life. That might be going for a walk at the end of the day, changing your clothes, speaking to or calling a loved one, getting in a workout, or any actions that make it easy to leave the day behind you.
Looking for more ways to boost productivity within your team? Try one of our other articles: