To Work or Not to Work. That Is the question

126453275If Shakespeare were alive today, in our 21st century smartphone world, that might be the focus of his famous soliloquy in “Hamlet.”

Years ago, when you left the office, it meant the end of your workday, with the exception of an emergency phone call or two.

But today, with smartphones and laptops and tablets, work goes wherever you go.And not everyone is thrilled about that.

Nearly half of the respondents in a survey conducted by Alliance Solutions Group said technology is intrusive to their personal lives. And one in five said they did not feel they could set boundaries and expectations with their bosses about employee accessibility after work hours.

This dissatisfaction with tag-along technology is contrary to what survey respondents said about their company’s culture and the benefits of mobile technology.

Three in four respondents said their companies promote a healthy work-life balance. And 92 percent said email and cell phone technology allows them to be more productive.

PREMIUM CONTENT: What makes employees happier and more productive?

Still, many recognize that technology comes at a cost to work-life balance. Compounding this is employees’ use of personal cell phones and tablets for work purposes. This makes it almost impossible to avoid seeing a work-related email outside of normal working hours.

So how do staffing companies keep employees productive and happy?

While setting boundaries is up to each individual – learning how to ignore distractions is critical – here are some tips that can help:

  1. Set expectations. Most misunderstandings begin with miscommunication. For example, your boss might send you an email at 9 p.m. not because he expects an immediate response, but because he doesn’t want to forget what he’s thinking. The best way to understand this is to have an open, honest conversation about expectations.
  2. Set your own boundaries. When you get home, put your cell phone down. Don’t carry it around and wait for it to beep, buzz and get your attention. Schedule “quiet hours” that you spend with your family or friends “tech free.”  As soon as you use that technology (even for personal use), you may get sucked back into work.
  3. Be flexible and realistic. Emergencies happen but that doesn’t mean you have to race back into the office. Today, you have the luxury of handling many of them from home or elsewhere, which is much more convenient.  Deal with these situations quickly rather than trying to avoid them and you should be able to minimize the time it takes to handle them.
  4. Use a designated work space at home. Don’t set up shop on the couch or in the kitchen.  Work in a separate area so it will be easier to “turn off” at the end of the day.

MORE: How employee relationships and effective work-life balance affect engagement

Rob Sable
Rob Sable is chief information officer of Alliance Solutions Group.

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