Hyper-connectivity inhibits work-life balance

A Boston Business Journal series

Professionals today are finding little time to disconnect, between the emails, messages, in-person and always-on expectations of their companies. Not only are these behaviors destructive to our family lives and our ability to focus, they also prove challenging to business leaders.​

The wonders of work-life balance and well-being

An employer’s perspective, as shared by William K. Bacic, New England Managing Partner, Deloitte LLP

As I’ve discussed in previous blog posts, it’s no secret that today’s employees are overwhelmed. Our mobile devices now allow employees to bring work with them 24/7. Between the volume of emails and always-on nature of messages, information, and work-related activities, often little time is left to disconnect. In fact, Deloitte’s Workplace Pulse survey on well-being found that roughly one in three respondents (33 percent) do not feel comfortable taking personal time off/vacation days. Moreover, nearly one-third of survey takers (32 percent) said that they’ve consistently placed work commitments over family/personal commitments; fewer than half (48 percent) of those respondents said that their organization as a whole values their life outside work.

Not only are these behaviors destructive to our family lives and our ability to focus, they also prove challenging to business leaders. According to Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, more than one-third of executives rated work-life balance among their top five priorities, but fewer than one in 10 thought they were dealing with it effectively.

Leaders and managers know that engaged employees are more productive, and that it’s critical for professionals to arrive to work prepared and ready to tackle the day. It is our responsibility to manage the frenetic communications practices that overwhelm employees, simplify the work environment, create more flexible work standards, and teach workers how to prioritize. Read on for new ideas to help address the work-life balance challenge and foster a culture of well-being.

One of the first steps leaders can take is to lead by example. For employees to feel they can truly disconnect, they need to see their leaders taking time off as well. Along those same lines, it is important for leaders to publicize and celebrate flexible work policies. Think about benefits that your organization offers, such as a work week schedule where professionals work nine-hour work days so that they are able to take a flex day off every second week, or the ability to work remotely. Make sure your people are aware of these benefits and know how to take advantage of them.

It is also important for leaders to talk to employees. Engage in honest conversations about the challenges and frustrations they face, including whether or not they feel they can truly disconnect when away from the office. Consider issuing an organization-wide survey asking about the most frustrating workplace systems and practices and ask for employees’ input on how to improve them.

To further combat employee overload, you may want to develop guidelines on sending emails, holding meetings, and traveling—and educate staff in these areas. Perhaps you limit meetings to 30 minutes or disable the “cc” and “reply all” functions in your corporate email. Empower your leaders to make greater use of virtual technology—including video conferences and instant messaging–in lieu of frequent cross-country travel.

As business leaders, we realize that an overwhelmed, hyper-connected employee is a business concern. It is our responsibility to find ways to make information easier to find, promote flexible policies, and promote employee well-being. Such intervention can help improve engagement, team work, and productivity.​

"Roughly one in three respondents (33 percent) do not feel comfortable taking personal time off/vacation days,"Deloitte's 2015 Human Capital Trends Report

HR today requires a new playbook

Read the full Human Capital trends report to learn about leading in the new world of work.

Global organizations today navigate a “new world of work”—one that requires a dramatic change in strategies for leadership, talent, and human resources. More than 3,300 organizations from 106 countries contributed to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 survey, assessing the importance of specific talent challenges and their readiness to meet them.

Human capital trends

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