Anonymous Career Advice

How To Reduce The Work Life Blur?

This week’s anonymous career advice comes from a manager that is looking to help their department in reducing the blur between work and home life, especially with many businesses now operating in the hybrid model

Dear Focus, What are the five things you would recommend to help my team reducing the work and life blur?

This is actually something many managers just are not thinking about and I want to thank you for stepping up and asking this question. 

There are much bigger methods in tackling this but requires a fair-sized budget shift and significant change from your team members, however, here are my five simple but ultimately actionable recommendations:

Adding work boundaries helps to guide teams to work to core hours and not react to each request out of work hours

1: Add Boundaries

Ensure you set the right level of boundaries for your teams: 

  • Whether that’s their workday or out of hours
  • The teaming knowing it is ok to not have to reply to slack, teams or emails out of hours
  • Your boss emailing you outside of working hours does not need a reply 
  • Some teams will have to work out of hours, this does not mean the company does and knowing that you will receive 

I have worked for companies that operate across multiple time zones and setting the expectations that your time zone is when you work and respond is important.

Likewise, if you are a senior leader or executive, you work different hours to the rest of the business set the example and allow teams to know you do not expect the same and do not want them to blur the line. 

Remember sending an email or instant message is only ever convenient to the sender, rarely ever to the receiver.

Having worked agency-side and ran agency business operations, it is important for you set the precedent at your agency that working hours and delivering on deadlines happens within work hours.
This will be a huge selling point for your agency and operationally savvy agencies tend to outperform less operational smart agencies. 

2: Have Official Work Apps & Software

Adding a clear delineation between what the work apps and software are will help teams understand that these apps are for work and these are for non-work. 

Setting up a folder on your phone with just your work apps will help to create a guide for the team. 

There are often tools you will never use outside of work, project management tools, emails apps, backlog tools and adding them into a folder will be easy to move to the furthest screen on your personal device. 

Helping team members know that their personal laptop is for personal use and work laptop is where they check emails, work progress etc helps to remove confusion and FOMO

3: Personal Laptop & Work Device

During the pandemic, it has been difficult for many to create their own boundaries, they have had to use their own devices or a combination of two devices to work. 

With many countries opening up, help your team members know that even in hybrid work, you have personal devices and work devices and to use them accordingly. 

The more simple the use case, the easier it should be to help your team manage the blur. 

Something that has worked for me personally is having dedicated apps for dedicated work purposes, so using Spark desktop app over the default or the web versions of Outlook or Gmail, using a third-party chat app that allows me to split out Slack instances and use the official app for work purposes.

This is something you will have to be intentional and something that you and the team could work on together to find the best third-party apps.

Notifications are engineered for instant response, help the team to reduce dopamine kicks from notifications from work apps

4: Turn Off Work Notifications

Something that blurs the lines is notifications, I am personally an inbox zero person and hate notifications, what works for me is removing notifications from work apps out of hours, with modern smartphones this is much easier to create. 

Focus mode on the new Apple iOS 15 update has many features you can leverage with work and home mode. 

Apps such as Outlook, Gmail & Instant Messengers are designed and prime to push notifications for instant reads, ensure you understand how you stop and turn off notifications from these specific apps and desktop software.

Personal chat apps should not be used for work purposes and often is the core reason why work and life become blurred and leads to more stress

5: Remove Personal Chat Apps From Work

WhatsApp, iMessage, Telegram etc are vital parts of peoples personal life, adding these types of messaging apps into the workplace will blur lines and make teams feel they are always on. 

Yes, there will be groups created but unless it is a PR or Marketing emergency group it is unlikely you will need to blur the lines. 

Likewise, if you use Slack and Teams, there are often private communities on them, try to help the team know personal chat apps are not to be used for work purposes. 

Good luck rolling out these five recommendations and keep in mind, simple boundaries, agreed on leadership principles and guidelines always help people understand you are taking it seriously and your guidelines are followed from the top of the hierarchy to those starting out on their journey with your company.