Dave Deruytter looks at work-life balance and wellbeing.
True employee wellbeing is the result of meaningful challenges for workers in a strategy that proposes incremental change, promoting regular opportunities to learn and to disconnect. It does not come with big change from all sides and attached with ‘always on’ requirements.
Many companies propose work-life balance and wellbeing goodies to their employees. The employment market is tough. Unemployment has never been as low in the developed world as today. The war for talent is still going strong.
At the same time, many companies are implicitly expecting that their workers react to a Saturday morning email from their boss or a client. True, many workers are almost constantly online privately. But, concluding that that should count for work too is one of the key reasons for the high numbers of burnouts, depressions and other long-term sick-leave absences.
Another key reason for the high absence numbers at work comes from the fact that companies like to boast that change is the new normal and that the only thing that enslavement, authorities are promoting less alcohol to avoid dependency and health issues. The same is needed for smartphone or online addiction. For alcohol, two days without it per week is recommended by many experts, in order to stay on the safe side. So, why not have at least one day
per week without a smartphone or social media? Legal drugs like nicotine (tobacco) and alcohol are taxed by the authorities, so why not also tax the smartphone use or the addicting services it offers, mainly in social media?
Employees can also take pre-emptive action themselves, by putting on their automatic ‘out of office’ reply every Friday evening, mentioning that they will be back on the following Monday morning. It will send a clear message to the
overactive bees that send requests during the weekend. You may add to your ‘auto reply’ message that for emergencies they can send you an SMS, but even that should not be necessary if the business is really well organized.
All these extra pressures on people, such as the omnipresence of change and the smartphone addiction, also lead to a drop in concentration levels. Students have trouble in effectively studying their subjects; workers are failing to finish their jobs or do them badly. The attention timespan has become so short that some people stop functioning well at school or at work.
The time for action is now. Businesses and society are suffering already and a recession, to cool the labour shortage, is never something to wish for. When too much sand gets into the machine, it stops working.
As individuals, we can do many things to prevent burnouts, too. The first is to act on the issues when they present themselves. Do not let problems linger on. Typically, they do not go away on their own. Secondly, ask yourself the question, will this issue still matter in one day, one month or one year from now? Last but not least, celebrate your successes, learn from your failures, talk to your teammates or friends and make sure to take breaks regularly.