Learning how to unplug from work


Once upon a time, work-related emails would stay where they belong: at work. You would open your office computer in the morning, start your day, and close it before coming home in the evening. At home, you could focus on yourself, chores, family and friends.

Now, I am able to check emails on my phone. I receive Slack notifications at 11 PM, and on Sundays. My colleagues can send me messages on WhatsApp or Messenger. I have access to the Trello and Google Drive apps, which allow me to make small changes to the tasks and documents I am currently working on.

It feels great at first. You’re asking yourself: what’s the big deal? I can quickly answer now, that will be one less task for tomorrow. It just takes a second, right?

However, as shown in a recent The Wall Street Journal article, “those rapidly accumulating seconds are just technology’s version of death by 1,000 cuts, expanding the workday’s boundaries until it seamlessly blurs with the rest of civilian life.”

Make good usage of technology

Before leaving the office, I got into the habit of turning off Slack and WhatsApp notifications. It’s quick, and easy to turn back on in the morning. I would always tell my team to call me in case of emergency. This made me understand that 11 PM messages were not as urgent as they seemed at the time. If you are using Google Calendar, take advantage of the new “Working Hours” function, which automatically rejects invites for meetings or calls at time you are not available. Interested? Learn how to set it up here.

Let your team disconnect

Collaborative tools like Slack have made it so easy to contact a colleague. At work, I would often send messages to people who were only a few desks away! However, if you are working late at night, on weekends or during a coworker’s vacation, think twice before hitting send. Do you really need an answer right now? Can’t it wait for tomorrow, next Monday or even next week?

Understand and set expectations

A couple of years ago, I used to have a manager who would spend his evenings sending emails. He would receive between 100 to 300 emails each day, and would respond between 8 and 11 PM at night. After receiving a couple of messages from him during these hours, and feeling extra guilty for answering the next morning, I had a talk with him. Things got cleared out quite easily: he explained that he did not expect me to answer immediately. Understanding his expectations relieved a lot of stress from me.

Embrace your downtime

I believe in the power of self care and cosy moments, for yourself. Getting some rest and giving value to your health and well being is crucial to be more productive. If you are interested in reading my articles about this topic, check these out:

Last year, France established legal frameworks to allow workers a “right to disconnect”, a law that bans after-hours work emails. However, so far no fine has been created against companies who would disrespect this right. What’s more, this law only concerns companies of more than 50 employees. The “always on” culture is unfortunately dominant within startups, which won’t be affected by this new regulation.

Because of new technologies, there is still a long way to go for work-life balance! What do you think about this issue? I’ll be curious to read your comments.

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