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9 tips to improve your work-life balance

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The beginning of a new year - a perfect time to think about work-life balance and new habits  before the busy-ness takes over once more.

With 24/7 connectivity, how do you create a balance between work and life when you’re always ‘switched on’? We asked some busy people for tips on how to both get away from technology and use it to a balanced advantage.  
 
The issues getting in the way


“Before smartphones and email syncing, we tended to have greater separation between work and non-work time. As that separation has diminished, many feel like they never have time to recharge the batteries,” says Simon Moutter, Managing Director of Spark New Zealand. “We’re not going to change the reality of the online world, so we need to manage the balance through discipline combined with flexibility, as paradoxical as that sounds.”

 

4 top work-life balance tips

 

  • Make guilt-free choices between work and life, be committed and make it happen.

 

  •  Introduce flexible ways of working and use technology to your advantage.

 

  •  Manage the expectations of others by being clear about what’s urgent and what can wait.

 

  • Lead by example and acknowledge that people handle 24/7 connectedness differently.

With 24/7 connectivity, how do you create a balance between work and life when you’re always ‘switched on’? We asked some busy people for tips on how to both get away from technology and use it to a balanced advantage.  

 

The issues getting in the way

“Before smartphones and email syncing, we tended to have greater separation between work and non-work time. As that separation has diminished, many feel like they never have time to recharge the batteries,” says Simon Moutter, Managing Director of Spark New Zealand. “We’re not going to change the reality of the online world, so we need to manage the balance through discipline combined with flexibility, as paradoxical as that sounds.”

Jason Paris, CEO of Home, Mobile and Business at Spark believes the biggest issue is the loss of human interaction resulting from our digital addictions. He says, “We send emails to people seated 20 metres away when we could talk face-to-face. People feel that they’ll get more stimulation through Facebook, instead of a conversation with their partner or friends. There are lots of cool collaboration tools today, but nothing beats getting people in a room to talk and brainstorm.”

 

Heather Polglase, Head of HR at Spark Digital, says that when we feel overloaded and don’t have any energy, it’s often because our brain is lacking the fuel it needs to function effectively. “Our ability to deal with pressurised, quickly changing situations requires our brains to be regularly decompressed so we can adapt quickly. That means switching off and being very clear about the things we will do in that moment versus another moment in the day.”

 

Straightforward tips to take on board

 

1. Make guilt-free choices

Jason has a ‘be in the moment’ perspective, where work-is-work and life-is-life.

 

“There’s no such thing as ‘balance’,” says Jason. “There’s choice, and you need to make those choices guilt free. When you’re at home with your family or out with your friends, make that choice, be committed to it and really enjoy it.

 

“Sometimes you will choose to work all weekend because you care passionately about a business outcome. And other times you will take a Monday off because you have a child’s recital or a friend is ill, or for whatever reason. Do it, commit to it and make it happen.”

 

2. Manage expectations

Heather says we need to understand the difference between what’s urgent and what can wait.

 

“Establish what your boundaries are for responsiveness and then manage expectations. Don’t be passive to your feelings of being overloaded and overcommitted. Today it’s even more important for you to assert yourself and manage others.”

 

3. Create a mental break between environments

Jason explains that he can take a while to transition between work and home. “Some people use their journey home to de-stress by listening to the radio or music. I use that time to return or make phone calls.

 

“A tactic that works for me is to immediately change out of my suit and straight into shorts and a t-shirt when I get home.”

 

He says that this technique helps him to make the transition from home to work. “I always wear a suit to work, every single day. Even casual Fridays. It helps me to mentally transition to work and get in the zone.”

 

4. Disconnect from your devices

Being disciplined about putting your phone or tablet away can add to the break between work and life.

 

Simon Moutter says, “When I’m home, I try to be 100% at home and when I’m at work, I try to be 100% at work. At home, I put my smartphone upstairs so I’m not tempted to look at it when I want to be paying 100% attention to my family. That lets me focus on doing a better job of being dad or husband or whatever the situation is. On the flip-side, I don’t do home and personal tasks at work - well not very often.”

 

5. Exercise your planning and prioritisation skills

Tash Cook, Head of Operations at NextMinute, a company that provides business management software for small companies and tradespeople, says, you’ve got to be ‘self-managing’ and use technology to your advantage.

 

“Yesterday I popped out for a few hours to watch my son’s touch game and attend my other son’s kindy party. In the past, I’d have to go back to the office in the evening to complete my work. Now I can easily pick up those things at home.

 

“That means we can be connected for 15 hours a day but not working that entire time – making ourselves available in the parts of the day that work best for us.” In regards to what NextMinute offers, Tash adds, “We’re at the coal-face of bringing work-life balance into our customers’ lives. Before NextMinute, tradies had to be on the tools all day and then go home to do the job admin and paperwork. With NextMinute, a lot of the organising and admin for a team of guys can be handled as they go, rather than at night when they’d rather be relaxing with family.”

 

6. Use technology to your advantage for better customer service

Jason says that using technology enhances customer service and gives more free time back to customers.

 

“The way that Spark can provide exceptional customer service is by removing some of the need for customer service in the first place. With the digital technology available to us now, we can solve a pain-point for a customer before they even know they had it. That frees up our people to work on the more important life-changing things rather than day-to-day problems.

 

7. Introduce flexible ways of working

“One of the things I’ve always offered my staff is telecommuting or working from home,” adds Simon Greenwood, Founder and CTO at NextMinute. “It gives them a change of environment, independence, and they can choose the hours they work. They’re often more productive at home and aren’t stuck in traffic for 1 to 2 hours each day.”

 

8. Rethink how to attract and retain talent

Businesses of all sizes and types are increasingly emphasising work-life balance as a means of attracting and retaining talent.

 

Heather says, “Our summer hours initiative has been really popular – it’s a very Kiwi way to give people whose jobs allow for it flexible hours over the summer. Many people take an early day on Friday, after working slightly longer hours during the week. By thinking outside the box and caring about what matters to your people, you can provide options that give them more flexibility to make better life choices.”

 

9. Lead by example

One of the most powerful things managers can do is lead by example. “If you see your boss working 24 hours, seven days a week, then you feel like you’ve got to follow his or her lead,” says Jason. “It’s not do as I say, it’s do as I do.”

 

He says you have to put family first. “Work is important, but not as important as family. Hopefully my team would say that I make family number one. I get that from Simon [Moutter] who always puts his family first. And because of that clarity, you can more easily make choices about how you spend your time.”

 

Simon Moutter adds, “It’s about acknowledging that people handle this connectedness differently. You need to encourage staff to make choices that work for them. If someone requires more separation between work and life, make sure they know you don’t expect them to be on email all weekend.

 

“And for those who are comfortable with 24/7 accessibility, understand that they’re probably looking at social media and taking care of personal tasks during normal work hours but they make up for it in the evening.

 

“It’s all about flexibility and acknowledging that everyone is different in the way they manage and cope with ‘balance’.”

 

How can work-life balance work for you?

If you’d like to find out how technology can improve your team’s work-life balance and, in turn, the customer experience that your business provides, get in touch. We can discuss collaboration and mobility tools that offer on-the-go empowerment, flexibility and cost effectiveness.

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