When are you ‘off’, or are you always on?

Yolande Coombes Psychologist, Coach & Facilitator

The “always on” culture has been both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it has given us unprecedented access to information and resources that would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago. On the other hand, this same technology can make it difficult to disconnect from work or even relax during downtime. 

For some, the sheer volume of work coming at us can feel like taking a break is almost impossible. With constant emails, texts and notifications vying for our attention 24/7, it’s no wonder that creating boundaries has become increasingly difficult. It can be particularly hard in businesses where employees are given little autonomy.

Knowing your most productive hours of the day is vital, as it allows you to leverage them to get the most work done. For example, if you are an “early bird” whose productive hours are early in the morning, block that time to work on the most tedious tasks that require more focus and concentration.  

When a company says we have a hybrid approach to work, but everyone must be in the office on a Monday, or we have core working hours where you must be present, we take away autonomy. I heard that we should consider the office a tool for work or collaboration, not a destination. We need to get better at deciding which tools we need for which projects – some of those tools might mean working together at the office, but equally, you might need to work at home to focus. Empowering your employees with the autonomy to decide what tools they prefer to get the job done will lead to greater productivity and engagement.

To combat the ‘always on’ issue, we need better boundaries between our professional and personal lives.

This means setting clear expectations with colleagues about when you will be available (and when you won’t!), as well as carving out specific blocks of time each day dedicated solely towards relaxation or leisure activities without any distractions from work.

In an ideal world, employers would be at the forefront of supporting staff to set boundaries and check that they are ‘switching off’. One thing we can all do is push back at colleagues, employers or peers who make us feel ‘less than’ for setting boundaries with our time.


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