How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

While technology allows working parents to make time for family commitments, it can also affect their work-life balance. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

While technology allows working parents to make time for family commitments, it can also affect their work-life balance. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

As a working mum, I’m constantly juggling different roles and responsibilities. Being at the office all day, while also doing the school run, parents’ evenings and going to my children’s sports matches is simply not feasible.

That’s why flexible hours and working remotely has been so important for me – it allows me to fulfil both my professional and personal responsibilities. It’s always a balancing act, and in many ways it requires a new set of skills to get the most out of flexible working. Not all aspects of my role can be done remotely, so it’s important to make the right call about when I’m needed in the office. But, like many employees who work flexibly, technology helps things to tick over and I’ve learned to constantly assess and prioritise my responsibilities.

For me, achieving a healthy work-life balance would be impossible without technology. Video conferencing is the best tool that enables me to work from home when I need to. Being able to see my team makes our interactions more personal and collaborative, despite the actual distance. Some critics of flexible working argue that it detriments team work. I think video conferencing helps to address these concerns by enabling more meaningful interaction.

And flexibility has only become more important as my children have grown. School-age children often have concerts and sporting events in the middle of the working day, but technology can sometimes enable me to be in two places at once.

I’ve learned to embrace this blurring between my work and personal life. It’s hard to resent having to switch back on if it means you’re able to make time for personal commitments during the working day. And it’s not just about people with families: flexible working is imperative to the next generation of employees, both men and women. For them, coming into an office every day represents a bygone era of the world of work.

Yet technology can be a double-edged sword when employees struggle to find the right balance between their work and personal lives. Simply having the technology to allow you to work flexibly doesn’t necessarily reduce stress levels. In fact, 70% of respondents to a recent Accenture survey said technology caused work to creep into their personal lives.

It’s important that technology is managed effectively to ensure that its benefits aren’t outweighed by increased stress levels, with the idea that you need to be “always on”. Both employers and employees have a responsibility to set some parameters and actively dissuade the development of this culture within teams.

I’ve learned that it’s usually down to individuals to set boundaries that make their availability clear. For example, I won’t answer emails on the weekend or when I’m on holiday. Yet plenty of people respond to emails at any time. That’s a choice people can make but, for me, it only perpetuates the culture and guarantees that your time off will not be your own.

When you are out, find a colleague who can handle the request in your absence so things move along and you are not tied to email on holiday. Delegating responsibility is vital, especially for senior executives. We all need to accept that we’re not indispensable, and there is often someone who can step in when you’re away.

Although technology has to be managed carefully, there are so many ways in which it can enhance our working lives if we set appropriate boundaries. And companies that can provide the tools and the culture to help us find that right work-life balance will reap the rewards when it comes to attracting and retaining the best employees.

Fiona O’Hara is managing director of human capital and diversity at Accenture.

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How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

You’re reading Entrepreneur India, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Digitalization has always redefined the way we work. This gives us more freedom to shape our work life, but as a result the lines between work and private life have been blurring with time. Establishing work-life balance in the digital age is, therefore, a continuous and ongoing journey.

Thanks to digitalization, we are more flexible to work when, where, and how we want to. Work was always done at the office and it was kept strictly separate from private life. Today, with growing connectivity, this clear-cut delineation is disappearing. The present lockdown due to COVID19 has only accelerated all of us towards working from home while encroaching our lives at home. With technology and digitisation this movement is only going to be more certain and normal. We need to find ways to manage it to achieve a balance. Striking a healthy work-life balance is therefore more important while at the same time it is more challenging than ever before.

As business leaders, we face this challenge on an organisational and also at a personal level. Looking back at our professional lives, we would find that our work mindset and approach have changed over time. We have adjusted to the new engulfing times in the digital age but there are some realities that we will have to accept while we try balancing our work with our personal/ private space.

With work life being reinvented, finding new ways of integrating all areas of life in a meaningful and productive way is a huge learning effort. There are a few things that we have to keep in mind to ensure an effective balancing of our work-life in the digital age

Live a culture of trust

A prerequisite for flexible work is giving employees more autonomy and empowering them to take decisions themselves. In order to do this, you need to nurture a culture of mutual trust, and create a safe environment for making and learning from mistakes. When employees can take more ownership, this will contribute to their engagement and fulfilment at work.

Lead by example

As a leader, we need to position ourselves as a role model and inspire the change we want to see. Walking that walk is essential to find support for your change agenda across the organization. We have to always dedicate to what we believe is right and push for the effective use of digital tech to grow our organisation into an enabler of work-life balance.

Look to reinvent

All of us should have an open mind to reinvent ourselves and constantly look for creative and innovative ways in doing our things. Adoption and learning of new technologies and trying to move out of our grooves and mindsets that we have habituated ourselves to, is a must so that we find more time for ourselves to think and nourish our mind.

Learn to unplug

Sometimes it’s good to disconnect and get a digital detox. This allows us to put a focus on other areas of life in that moment. Like for instance, do not check your emails late on weekends and during holidays, and consciously take social media breaks.

Change needs time. It can be observed that a majority of senior executives still holds on to what they know. Because of this, mobile work still suffers from a reputation of being less professional. There is generally not enough trust to foster flexible work in the digital workplace. Despite this, we have to view change with optimism, even when faced with criticism or resistance from peers or superiors. We all have to be the changemaker and one should not get discouraged or feel like you need to justify yourself – push for the change that you know is right and needed.

“Work vs. private life” is a thing of the past.

Till a couple of decades ago, work was clearly separated from all other parts of life such as family, friends, hobbies, and sports. Earning money and career advancement is what motivated people in their work. A typical work week meant long hours at the office – something that our bosses may have really valued. With our teams, we sat closely together, so that we could easily catch up, discuss, and understand each other better.

How did we balance work and private life? We would take a day off in order to arrange personal things. And we would struggle to find some extra hours after work timings or tried hard to reduce the days staying late at the office by reprioritizing and managing expectations.

Obviously, back then, we could not easily dial into meetings or work from home – the technical infrastructure was simply not available. But also, the leadership style was different: it was based on hierarchy and command-and-control. Digitalization enables us to reinvent the way we work and manage. However, in order to truly put this into practice, leaders need to discard outdated mindsets and make room for new management practices.

Work-Life balance today is a matter of integration

These days, life is much less compartmentalized. Work has become interwoven with all other parts of life. We are increasingly more driven by purpose and meaning, also in our workplace. Today, in quite a few jobs one can work from home or at the office to be as effective. Doctor’s appointments and sports can be planned into our working day, and we need not feel limited by the fixed office hours or even feel guilty.

Mutual respect and trust act as an important vehicle in teams to put flexible work policies into practice. But change is never easy. At an organizational level, it needs to be carefully managed and well-communicated. And, old habits die hard; and we need to push ourselves to change the way we work. Working from home is something we need to consciously plan, though sometimes for a lot of us, it still does not feel completely right when we attend to a doctor’s appointment during lunch breaks.

Blending of work and life in the digital age

Digitalization and technological advancement are helping us to reinvent the working world – something that has been long overdue. The future of work will surely be more flexible. Not only mobile work will be the reason for this, but also other policies such as new forms of unpaid leave, part time employment and even sabbaticals. But this transition also calls for new strategies to organize work life effectively. For all organizations, finding ways to work smartly and flexibly and yet be effective is an ongoing journey.

As business leaders, we need to pave the way and establish a culture that empowers and encourages employees to balance work and private life. Only by leaving outdated management practices behind and embracing a new mindset, we can truly grasp the benefits of digitalization and create more resilient and sustainable workplaces. Workplaces where employees have fun, feel engaged and are happy.

How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

In today’s always-on digital world, the workday often blurs into our personal lives. Finding the right work-life balance isn’t just nice to have, it could be the difference between life and death. Working long hours increases the risk of atrial fibrillation. The stress associated with it also can contribute to conditions including osteoporosis and immunosuppression as well as a higher risk of anxiety and depression.

Work-life balance isn’t just about finding a great job; it’s also about setting boundaries and integrating wellness into your daily routine. Even a great job can be dangerous if not managed properly. Technology has been touted as the solution to solve all of our work issues, but in today’s mobile and digital world, it can often create more problems than solutions. In fact, according to research conducted in 2012, 70% of the business executives surveyed said that “technology brings work into their personal lives.”

At our company, we use technology but acknowledge that it isn’t a silver bullet to solve everything. Technology is woven into our overall approach for investing in our employees so that they avoid burnout. Here are three ways that technology can help staff find work-life balance.

1. Improving Productivity

We have offices all over the world, so it can be challenging to organize and communicate with all of our employees in different time zones. Cloud technology has really transformed business, so documents we’re working on in Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, are easily accessible in the Philippines or other locations.

Google has simplified the integration of email, document collaboration, video conferencing, instant messaging and more. With these tools, we can coordinate schedules, set out-of-office notifications and share work projects. This helps us work together more effectively over long distances. Better collaboration improves our overall productivity, allowing us to get more done during normal work hours.

There are a million apps out there that promise productivity and help managing schedules, but use them wisely. There is no one app to rule them all. Picking the right productivity app for your company can actually empower employees to make the most of their time so they can get work done better and faster, which allows them more time to live their own lives.

2. Creating Flexibility

Technology gives us the flexibility to allow employees to work remotely when needed. Struggles with work-life balance often center around being stuck in a cubicle or office for most of the day, but working remotely can empower employees with the flexibility to be productive at work while also managing their personal lives. We use tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts to help us communicate, so that staff who are working remotely can be part of the office culture and join impromptu meetings but also have the flexibility to be at home or in a different office.

Choose technology that can provide transparency and bridge communication with team members. One of the communication tools that many businesses find useful is Slack, which serves as a hub for connecting various activities across different teams and departments. The main thing to be mindful of when evaluating technology is that it contributes to cooperation and overcomes your business’s unique challenges, such as ensuring that everyone is working together no matter where they’re located.

Setting rules and boundaries for communication tools can be important for work-life balance because many of these tools can have the unintended impact of allowing work to bleed into every aspect of an employee’s life. Set parameters for work schedules, and communicate with managers and team members when work hours shift due to personal conflicts.

3. Getting Centered

We see our team as one of our greatest resources, so we provide them with wellness offerings like the Headspace app. This app helps our employees feel balanced through mindfulness meditation, which can positively impact mental and physical health. They can use the app at work or at home.

There are many apps that promise to offer the keys to wellness and getting centered. Prioritize the one that’s best for your company and employees. We chose Headspace because we wanted to promote wellness and mindfulness throughout our organization. This isn’t just about exercising or eating right but being able to take a few moments out of each day whether in the office or at home to focus on finding peace. It’s something that has been so important to me personally.

Employers can help employees get centered in other ways, too, such as encouraging them to take breaks from their computers and other devices throughout the day, get outside for a change of setting and focus on their passions, such as loved ones or hobbies. This can be systematized through something as easy as setting reminders using your office’s calendar app.

Technology As A Tool

Technology in and of itself is neither good nor bad. How we use it can determine whether it can help or hinder work-life balance. We live in a digital world, where it’s easier than ever to communicate beyond the office walls. I believe that the onus is on the employer to create a culture that can support employees’ work-life balance. We, as employers, can set an example for our staff. We can create workplace cultures that value personal time, don’t expect everyone to be accessible and available all the time and ensure that everyone has time to pursue their own personal passions. Employees can then ensure that they’re acting responsibly and communicating struggles with managers.

Technology can help keep your employees productive, connected and centered. Remember: Your team is your greatest resource.

How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs 45 and younger. YEC members…

How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technologyPhoto by Shawn Thomas

In our digital age, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of work life balance. Today two-thirds of American workers report feeling burned out at work. Having a strategy to combat this is critical to our mental health and emotional well-being.

It’s also key to maximizing our productivity.

Why is work-life balance harder to manage today?

How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

Before the advent of smartphones, achieving work life balance was a lot easier: Commit to spending fewer hours in the office and vow not to bring work home.

But today, most knowledge workers can do their jobs from anywhere. Our phones are mini-offices that we carry in our pockets. We talk to coworkers from the sidelines of our children’s soccer games, and sadly, we call into meetings from our vacations.

Research from Project: Time Off shows that the majority of American workers don’t take all of their vacation time. One reason is that they are afraid of the mountain of work that will await them when they return, so why bother? It’s clear that vacation policy in corporate America is broken .

And so are corporate email policies, if they exist at all. In the absence of clear communication guidelines , managers email team members at nights and on weekends. Knowledge workers are afraid not to respond to their managers’ emails in a timely way. They interrupt family dinners or children’s soccer games to do so.

The term “work martyr” has been coined recently, as many knowledge workers feel that they alone can do their jobs, and that the organization suffers when they don’t get “everything” done. This drives longer and longer work hours.

What is the importance of work-life balance?

How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

With boundaries so blurred, it’s harder than ever to disengage our brains from work. But this is exactly what we need to do, even if we love our work.

There is ample evidence that taking vacation is critical to our mental health and our physical health. The Framingham Heart Study studied 12,000 men at risk for heart disease. Researchers found that the men who took more frequent vacations lived longer. Other studies find that vacations lower clinical depression, blood pressure and cortisol levels.

If that’s not compelling enough, here’s another reason to disengage from work: research shows that after working 50 hours a week, our productivity goes down. And after 55 hours, it goes way, way down. And yet, a Gallup Poll that found a full 50% of salaried, American workers put in more than 50 hours a week.

Achieving work life balance provides a dual win: when we have it, we improve our overall health, but we also increase our productivity.

How can we achieve work life balance in the digital age?

How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

The digital age brings so many benefits. Workers around the world can easily connect. We now have access to the world’s knowledge base through the internet. Unfortunately, though, our technology makes it particularly challenging for us to achieve work life balance.

Attention management is a set of skills that help us achieve work-life balance in the digital age. It involves training our brains to match the task at hand to the environment. Attention management increases our productivity at work, as well as helps us disengage from work when we’re at home or on vacation.

Why is attention management training important to work life balance?

My Empowered Productivity Training Program , based on attention management, offers executives and their teams the ability to live and work proactively, rather than reactively. The goal is to decrease burnout and increase overall happiness.

In the training, we discuss strategies for addressing common challenges in the modern workplace, such as:

  • How to deal with the constant bombardment from email
  • How to triage after-hours issues, and
  • How to find time for reflective, visionary work.

In striving to improve employee satisfaction, the importance of work life balance can’t be overstated. By offering attention management training, corporate leaders help their team members to maximize productivity and maintain a healthy work-life balance. This leaves employees refreshed rather than frazzled at the end of each workday, making them not only better professionals, but better parents, spouses, friends, and community members.

Start finding your work life balance with my new book

While I’ve trained thousands of executives and knowledge workers with my Empowered Productivity program, I reach many more people through my books.

My most recent book is called Attention Management: How to Gain Success and Increase Productivity Every Day . I designed this book so that you can read it in one hour. In it, I introduce you to the practice of attention management skills and provide you with exercises to get started. Do these exercises and you’ll begin to develop the ability to manage your attention.

And attention management is the key to finding work life balance in the digital age.

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A growing number of older people are working past their retirement age in an attempt to bridge the financial gap between soaring living costs, an inadequate pension and a lengthening retirement.

But it’s not just about money – a survey last year by Aviva found that one in four people in Britain plan to keep working beyond the age of 70 to stave off loneliness and to help stay mentally active.

Official figures suggest that around 15pc of men and 8pc of women over the age of 65 are currently in employment, and projections from the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggest that the number of employed 50-64 year-olds will surpass nine million before the end of 2018, and 10 million by 2021.

With businesses finding it harder than ever to recruit workers – Britain’s skills shortage reached “critical levels” in the last quarter of 2017 according to a survey from the British Chambers of Commerce – older workers represent a solution to this staff shortfall.

Andy Briggs, chief executive of Aviva and the Government’s business champion for older workers, has previously called on employers to tap into the talent pool of over-65s, as the retirement age edges further away.

W hile many older workers enjoy the benefits of working later in life, interacting with colleagues and having a “sense of purpose”, there is also a greater need for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

W ith often 40-plus years of full-time work behind them, it’s essential that older employees strike a balance between work and home life in order to not become overworked, stressed and, potentially, ill.

The Telegraph spoke to two older workers to find out how they ensure they get plenty of downtime after work, and whether they have any plans to retire.

‘I feel a sense of belonging’

According to Post Office Money, one in five people aged over 65 who are not currently retired have attempted to do so in the past and then made the conscious decision to re-enter the workforce.

Christine Hamilton is one such former retiree. She left work 10 years ago at the age of 60, but after a two-month holiday in Australia visiting her son decided to re-enter the working world as a primary school supply teacher.

“I knew I wasn’t ready to retire. I like the interaction with children, it keeps me young. I’m always meeting new people and I feel a real sense of belonging,” she said.

While the extra money is a bonus, enabling her and her husband James, 75, to do more travelling, it is the fulfillment she gets from teaching that keeps her going.

A nd the 70-year-old from Kent has no plans to stop working anytime soon. She is in school three days a week and will be there until “I no longer enjoy it, or my health declines”, she said.

“Most of my friends are retired now and they think I’m a bit mad. But there are other teachers my age that I see around.”

M rs Hamilton is satisfied with her work-life balance because she still has time to enjoy hobbies, such as reading and gardening, and her work enables her to be flexible with what days she is at school. “I can pick and choose when I want to work, so if I need to be off one week, I can.

“Plus”, she says, “my husband likes the peace and quiet when I’m out of the house”.

‘Walking my dogs improves my work-life balance’

Roz Danter, 61, works five days a week “and sometimes more” doing odd jobs such as cleaning, dog-sitting and selling online.

She would like to retire but cannot afford to for financial reasons. “When my husband Paul died seven years ago I was left with nothing. I went from running a pub 24/7 to having to move to rented accommodation and doing bits and bobs to make money”.

T he self-employed, mother-of-one says that money is not the only reason she works, however, as she thinks she would be bored if she no longer had a job.

“I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. I suppose it’s okay for married people who can do things together, but I’m a widow so I’m alone at home most of the time.”

M s Danter manages to maintain a happy equilibrium between work and life by getting up early and taking her two dogs for a walk. “In the summer I’m up at 4:30 walking the dogs, it keeps me active and I get back in time for work at 8:30.”

“I don’t see myself retiring anytime soon. While it might benefit me physically, my jobs keep me engaged and interested.”

How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox

How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

What do an iOS developer, a social media intern, a UX designer and a big-data architect have in common? As recently as 10 years ago, their job titles were rare (or didn’t exist at all).

Today, these titles are a dime a dozen for young professionals. In 2008, there were zero big-data architects on LinkedIn. In 2013, there were 3,440. (It might not come as a surprise that nearly 70 percent of parents admit they don’t have a clear understanding of their children’s jobs).

Technology’s rapid evolution has led to a surge of digital tools in the workplace. In some cases, it’s created entirely new industries. But it’s also created a gap between generations. If companies hope to address the challenges of a multigenerational workforce, it’s critical for leaders to embrace these differences as opportunities.

1. Technology changes the way generations communicate.

More than 74 percent of millennials believe new technology makes their lives easier, compared to 31 percent of Generation X and just 18 percent of Baby Boomers.

Younger generations simply have a different outlook when it comes to technology, and that translates directly into their attitudes at work. For example, younger workers might bring their smartphones to take notes at meetings or find information online or via social apps such as Twitter. Older workers, on the other hand, tend to stick to a notepad and pencil. These choices can be perceived as rude or antiquated, depending whom you ask.

This divide quickly can grow as more companies move away from email as a primary mode of communication and toward digital tools like Google Hangouts and group-messaging applications. For Simon Rakosi, cofounder of management training software company Butterfly, the true tipping point has been the normalization of tools such as Slack. Companies use use the instant-messaging platform to enable real-time communication among employees.

“Slack is truly the embodiment of the millennial generation’s view on work culture,” Rakosi says. “It’s fast, it’s instant, and it has personality. For people who have been in the workforce for decades, Slack might be a jarring transition away from emails and memos.”

That doesn’t mean this gap can’t be closed. There are many ways leaders can ease the transition into new technologies. Mentoring programs, for example, can encourage cross-generational knowledge sharing in both directions.

2. Technology creates a new set of workplace skills.

The rise of technology also has created a demand for tech skills. A study from Manpower Group revealed a lack of available talent has caused 39 percent of U.S. employers difficulty in hiring new employees.

When they do find talent, it’s typically in the younger employee. The median age of workers at successful tech companies is well below 35. Elizabeth Gibson, editor and messaging strategist at EZ Landlord Forms, says she confronts this skills gap every day with her clients. The landlords she deals with are either tech-savvy or only have hard-copy expertise.

“Generation is the single biggest predictor for difficulty,” she explains. Gibson says the company is bridging this skills gap by simplifying forms to make them as intuitive as possible.

Older generations may find themselves puzzled by the buzzwords their children use to describe their jobs. But the confusion around language doesn’t mean their kids are performing job duties beyond their reach or understanding. Every generation has experienced change and can learn new skills.

3. Technology affects the perception of work-life balance.

Younger workers place high value on creativity, innovation and flexibility in the workplace. That can lead to tension with older generations who may appreciate the more traditional work model — putting in time, paying dues and then going home for the day.

As mobile and remote workers become a larger part of the workforce, companies are embracing digital collaboration and communication models that make remote work more effective. Younger workers perceive this technology as a perk that empowers them to be productive from anywhere, but older generations may see these trends in a more negative light.

To combat this, companies should position remote work, tech-driven communication tools and related benefits as policies that value every generation’s flexible needs. A young millennial may have a side-gig she want to work on in the evening, a Gen Xer might need to pick up his kids from school, and a Baby Boomer may need to care for an aging parent. Putting forward policies designed to serve everyone allows companies to take advantage of diverse talent and use technology to bridge many of the gaps it has created.

Work-life balance

Work-life balance is adjusting your day-to-day activities to achieve a sense of balance between work life and personal life. Some benefits of a healthy work-life balance include:

  • reduced stress levels, at work and at home
  • greater focus and concentration
  • higher levels of job satisfaction
  • the opportunity to participate more fully in family and social life
  • more time to pursue personal goals and hobbies
  • improved health.

How to maintain good work-life balance?

Balancing the demands of a busy lifestyle is not an easy thing to do, but is best managed by regularly reviewing and assessing your priorities.

Here are a few ideas to help you strike a good work-life balance:

  • Set goals around what you value highly
  • Manage your time effectively—review job activities, priorities and success factors
  • Create a boundary between balancing work and personal time-leave work at work where possible
  • Build resilience and have a positive attitude
  • Avoid stress, mental exhaustion and burnout—fatigue affects your ability to work productively
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle—look after yourself, eat well, sleep well and set aside a little time to exercise or pursue an activity that you enjoy
  • Enlist a good support system—learn to delegate, we all need a little help sometimes
  • Enjoy your work.

What is stress?

Everyone experiences stress at some stage in their life. It is a way for us to know that something in our life is causing us concern and is affecting how we are thinking and feeling.

Stress is not always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best, but when you are constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price.

Signs and symptoms of stress

  • Mental
    • Trouble thinking clearly
    • Memory problems
    • Can’t concentrate
    • Low attention span
    • Poor judgement
    • Anxious or racing thoughts
    • Constant worrying
  • Emotional
    • Moodiness
    • Easily upset or hurt
    • Irritability or short temper
    • Agitation, unable to relax or keep still
    • Feeling overwhelmed
    • Sense of loneliness and isolation
    • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Physical
    • Tightness in muscles
    • Aches and pains
    • Headaches, trembling, sweating
    • Nausea, dizziness
    • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
    • Loss of appetite
    • Lack of sleep, dreams, nightmares
  • Behavioural
    • Eating more or less
    • Sleeping too much or too little
    • Isolating yourself from others
    • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
    • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
    • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing).

These signs and symptoms of stress can also be caused by other psychological and medical problems. If you experience any of these, it is important to see your doctor—as they can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are stress-related.

Causes of stress

The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. There are 2 types of stressors:

  • external (where outside forces act on us)
  • internal (self-generated, we have some control over it).

External causes of stress

  • Major life changes
  • Work
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Financial problems
  • Being too busy
  • Children and family.

Internal causes of stress (self-generated)

  • Inability to accept uncertainty
  • Doubt
  • Negative self-talk
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Perfectionism
  • Lack of assertiveness.

How to manage stress

Managing stress is about making a plan to be able to cope effectively with daily pressures. The ultimate goal is to strike a balance between life, work, relationships, relaxation and fun. By doing this you are more able to deal with daily stress triggers and meet these challenges head on.

Some strategies that can help you look after your mind and body, and in turn help you to better control behaviours that result from too much stress include:

Your body

  • Know your stress triggers
  • Recognise early warning signs and symptoms and act on them to reduce stress
  • Practise relaxation techniques or meditation
  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly—aim for at least 30 minutes every day
  • Get enough sleep—aim for around 8 hours every night.

Your thinking

  • Try to worry less about things you can’t control, and make plans for dealing with the things you can control
  • Set small, manageable and achievable goals
  • Apply problem-solving techniques—identifying the problem, clarifying its nature and map out options for dealing with it
  • Choose to have a positive attitude
  • Think positively about yourself and your achievements
  • Take time out to visualise a calm and peaceful place
  • Compete against yourself, not those around you and aim for your personal best
  • Develop, keep and use your sense of humour.

Your behaviours

  • Plan and organise ahead to allow enough time to get tasks done
  • Use ‘to do’ lists and set priorities to help you achieve your goals
  • Be open and honest with people, rather than hiding your thoughts and feelings
  • Seek guidance and support when you are feeling stressed
  • Create a balanced lifestyle for yourself and allow time for recreation and relaxation
  • Reward yourself when you reach your achievements and goals
  • Limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine and other drugs.

Support with mental illness and work

Resources are available for employees with mental illness and to assist employers and managers to support them.

Contact us

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How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

Digital technology has never been more essential to our working lives than during the past 12 months when large portions of our society have been remote working, in many cases for the first time.

About the author

Euan Davis, European Lead, Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work.

Digital technology has allowed us to interact, collaborate, and access our work and the wider world at the push of a button. It has been essential for communicating with friends, family, colleagues and loved ones, for accessing our exercise classes, book clubs, live entertainment and, of course, the tools we need to do our work. As we have all adapted to changing circumstances, it has never been more possible to bring the office into our homes or to function as close to “normal” from anywhere. Now, we have to consider how and where we will work in the future.

Expectations are that some remote working practices will remain in place for many of us even after offices are able to reopen safely, and this will lead to a rise in hybrid workforces. This will mean employees are split, with some staff in the office and others working from home on any given day. The remote working practices we have all adopted over the past year were by no means a pandemic-only response; they are here to stay, and will offer much-desired flexibility in the longer term, as well as the ability for buildings to balance safety requirements in the immediate future where full capacity may not be possible.

At the same time, many cannot wait to get back to an actual workplace and be surrounded by their colleagues. The office is not dead, but it also will not be the only place for the future of work – leading to hybrid workforces becoming much more common.

Connected conundrums

It is expected that hybrid work patterns will closely mirror those of remote working, with our connectivity being driven by technology rather than location. But this can be seen as a double-edged sword. For all the innumerable positives of the role of technology plays in our working lives, from the celebrated work-life benefits of avoiding the stress, time and expense of commuting, to the flexibility of working around other commitments such as the school run, the downside is the feeling or expectation of being constantly available.

Whether it is emails, Teams or Slack notifications, or other similar connectivity tools, the non-stop ping of notifications has become the daily soundtrack of our working lives. Video calls have not only replaced regular meetings that would have happened face to face or via phone call, they have multiplied in a bid to compensate for the decline in direct contact. As a result, our days are spent communicating digitally, almost non-stop, about the work that needs to be done or that we are planning to do, which is actually impacting our ability to do the work in question.

This is not just anecdotal, but quantifiable. A recent study explored the change in work behaviors and attitudes between 2016 and now. One eye-catching finding was the decline in respondents’ belief that digital technologies increase personal efficiency and productivity. Where five years ago 74% felt technology improved efficiency and 87% felt it improved productivity, these have now dropped considerably, to 48% and 46% respectively. Fewer than half of people now believe technology is helping them to do their jobs better, despite the fact that a lack of technology would have, in many cases, made work almost impossible during lockdown.

This reflects the reality that most of us are currently experiencing: that we are working longer hours, working more intensely and juggling more demands, and that additional layers of technology – instant messaging, video conferencing, collaboration platforms, now all the norm in our immersive, work-from-home age – seem to be making many of us less efficient and less productive. We are so busy communicating, there is no time to do any work.

The road ahead

The good news is that this is not an insurmountable issue. The past 12 months have in effect been a mass experiment on how we work and how we want to, and it is hugely beneficial in terms of how we now approach the future of work.

Technology will continue to play an essential role in our work lives, whether we are in an office with colleagues or connecting remotely. In-built tools, such as muting notifications outside certain working windows and scheduling emails for the following day if working late, can help to reinstate some of the boundaries between work and life that have become eroded. Even when offices can safely welcome staff back, we are unlikely to see whole workforces under one roof at the same time ever again. Ongoing distancing requirements and health and safety measures are likely to mean portions of staff will be working remotely, perhaps in a rotating pattern based on individual appetites and schedules, as well as safe office capacity.

As this flexibility becomes the norm and we begin to adopt hybrid working patterns, the next step is to refine working practices that only arose out of necessity and ensure the wealth of options, from locations to technologies, is used to improve how we work together, not hinder it.

The Benefit of More Flexible Schedules and Remote Work Options

How to maintain a work-life balance in the age of technology

Nearly 4.3 million employees worked from home at least part-time during 2018, according to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics. That’s an increase of 140% since 2005. Millions more work in positions that could easily lend themselves to flextime and telecommuting, at least a couple days a week.

Experts have long predicted that the emergence of mobile technology would eventually have a major impact on the way people work, and that time has come. EMarketer indicates that adults spent more than three and a half hours a day on their mobile smartphones in 2018, even when they worked in brick-and-mortar workplaces, and it’s expected that they’ll spend more time staring at their phones than at television screens in 2019.

That’s a lot of texting, surfing the internet, and collaborating using mobile technology, both in the office and on the go. Smart employers have begun to offer a lot more flextime and telecommuting to keep up with these trends and employee preferences.

The Global Business Atmosphere

Companies have started to expand globally. Teams are no longer always sitting in the same office, or even in the same state or country. They have to work outside normal work hours to accommodate team members in other time zones, and this demands more flexibility in scheduling.

Traveling employees can take their work on the road with them to improve their productivity levels, and companies can safely outsource tasks to contractors in other regions.

Telecommuting Appeals to Younger Workers

Telecommuting and flextime appeal to the younger, more technologically savvy generation of workers. An employee benefits package that allows for flexible schedules and remote work options is a major boon if your company hopes to attract and recruit the freshest young talent.

Millennials now make up the single largest population of workers, just behind baby boomers who are retiring and leaving in droves. They’re more inclined to work looser schedules that allow them to focus on work when they want to, and they prioritize their personal commitments the rest of the time.

It’s expected that 75% of the U.S. workforce will be made up of millennials by 2025, and they want more flexibility and versatility.

The Value of Work/Life Balance

More work/life balance is a new value in the workplace, with flextime and remote work leading the way. The Workplace Trends 2015 Workplace Flexibility Study revealed that while “67% of employers feel workers have work-life balance, 45% of employees disagree.”

Many employees are part of the “sandwich generation”—they’re taking care of ailing baby boomer parents while simultaneously raising their own children. Flexible schedule and telecommuting allow employees to make the most of their time without sacrificing their careers or personal lives.

The good news is that companies are taking steps to provide employee benefits that honor greater flexibility and the option to work from home as necessary. The Workplace Trends study indicated that seven out of 10 HR managers have made flexible work benefits a priority, and 87% of organizations have experienced improved employee satisfaction. About 71% have seen an increase in productivity.