How to Prevent Tech From Destroying Your Work-Life Balance
Larry Alton
MAY 04, 2016 12:26 PM
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How to Prevent Tech From Destroying Your Work-Life Balance

by Larry Alton

New tech emerges all the time, purportedly to make our lives easier and keep us in closer connection with each other. Traditional mediums, like email and phone calls, are still around, but a bevy of new communication mediums have arisen to streamline conversations and break down the barriers that previous communication channels erected.

The trouble is, some of these barriers were a good thing. Are we losing them?

Diversity and Hybridization

There’s no question that there are major advantages to the number of communication channels available to the average worker. Do you need to discuss a complex problem? Try video chatting. Are you on the go? Try a phone call. Is the problem simpler? Try IM or text messaging. Is it a one-way instruction? Try email.

For the most part, each channel offers unique advantages and disadvantages, but now, we’re starting to see hybrid communication apps, like Slack, which combine elements of previously existing mediums and add new elements to team communication dynamics. There are some major work-life balance problems that have arisen from these developments:

·        We have to check everything. Most of us check into multiple apps and programs on an almost compulsive level.

·        We’re getting distracted. Whenever we see or hear a notification, we drop whatever we’re doing to address it, leaving us less productive.

·        We expect immediate responses. This works both ways. Whenever we send a message, we often wait for an immediate response, and we’re always on edge to reply as soon as possible to a new message we receive from our team.

The end result is that we often work far longer than we otherwise would, spend more time communicating than “actually” working, and end up doing work during hours that we’d normally reserve for relaxation, friends, and family. It’s not a good mix.

How to Stay in Touch and Still Preserve Your Work-Life Balance

To fight back against this, but still stay in contact with your team, use the following strategies:

·        Narrow your communication platforms. It’s tempting to adopt every new platform or technology that claims to be the “next big thing” in team communication, but the more options you have, the more complicated it will be when you want to have a simple conversation with someone. Keep it as simple as you can.

·        Check messages on your terms. Try not to let a message sit in your inbox for more than one business day. Beyond that, don’t worry too much about responding to every little thing that pops up in your list of notifications. Otherwise, you’ll be too distracted to be productive in any meaningful way. Instead, turn off the notifications and check in whenever you set designated times for communication. It keeps you in control of your time, and helps you remain more efficient.

·        Allow one channel for emergencies. If you’re worried about someone actually needing you, keep one channel open for emergencies at all times. This will help you disconnect from the other channels that might otherwise absorb your time. For example, you might establish a phone call as an “emergency” contact option—and you won’t have to check your email, because you know if it’s really important, your contact would have called you.

·        Set firm cutoffs. Don’t be afraid to let your cutoffs be known. There are extenuating circumstances for true emergencies, but otherwise, don’t answer your IMs or emails after a specific time. Have dedicated time for your friends and family, take breaks, and take vacations. Stepping away from technology can actually increase your productivity overall, and it’s invaluable for your mental wellbeing.

Don’t stop yourself from getting excited at the next great communication technology to arise, but do take a step back to think about the implications for how you use it. No matter how amazing your career is, or how much potential it has, your personal health and wellness have to come first, and that means finding a work-life balance in this increasingly tech-dominated age.

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