Tune in, then turn off…

‘Hi, I’m sorry I can’t come in today but I’m not feeling very well’. This is a call we’ve all had to make at some point in our lives. It’s not a ‘duvet day’ or a ‘me day’ it’s a ‘I’m genuinely really not very well and can’t (and shouldn’t) come into the office day’. So, what happens now things have shifted, now we’re not going into offices as much, if at all? I’ve become acutely aware that when colleagues need to take a sick day the phone call is different, ‘Hi, I’m sorry I can’t work today I’m not feeling well…but I’ll leave my phone on and look at emails as they come in’. Working from home has changed the parameters, largely for good but there are some aspects that we should watch out for.

We’ve become increasingly aware of job creep over the last few years. Technology means we have the ability to work whenever and from wherever, even on our holidays.

Throw into the mix that many now work a large part of their week from home and work is in danger of taking over our lives.

The whole point of working from home was to give us a more relaxed attitude to our working day, to give greater freedoms and a work/life balance that suits both business and personal needs. The danger is that, with those pesky devices and emails, we now simply don’t know when to stop. There’s no beginning, middle and end to our days. We can read and reply to emails at 5am, 4pm or 11pm, 7 days a week. Job creep has crept up all over our lives.

At Hasson Associates we have a completely flexible way of working; it is results driven and colleagues can plan their working week around life commitments. Largely this is great but we’re finding that its not as simple as it sounds, working from home has taken some adjusting to, its a new way of working, we need to really pay attention to how we work, how our day is divided so that working from home doesn’t simply become a millstone where we’re switched on to work all day every day. We’re having to learn the importance of switching our devices off, to put structure around our newfound working from home freedoms otherwise we develop an ‘on call’ attitude where you’re never really switched off and constantly listening for the ping of an incoming email.

How can we help fight the creep? Small adjustments to our thinking can make a big difference. Think about when you’re sending emails – do you send at 7pm on a Friday which invites a colleague to either reply or think about the email all weekend? Think about when you’re calling colleagues – are you calling at a time when you know they always have a personal commitment, picking the kids up or having an hour to themselves? Consider a ‘work phones off’ policy when colleagues take holidays and encourage them to remove work emails from their devices for the duration. If they’re calling in sick, make sure calls and emails are left and others help to pick up where needed. On a personal note, I try to punctuate my day, where possible, with a beginning and an end. I walk to the local coffee shop and back in the morning (my daily commute) and take the dog for a walk when I end my working day.

The last 16 months have shown us that there are new ways of working, that businesses can make positive change for their teams BUT we have to guard against falling into bad habits, habits that can affect our wellbeing. Working from home can be liberating, it can be a win-win for employer and employee alike if you learn how to set your boundaries. On that note, laptop away, its 5pm and I’m off to walk the dog.

Our Top Tips on How to Avoid Job Creep

  • Clearly communicate your on and off times to your colleagues
  • Block out time in your diary when you aren’t available
  • Turn off email when on holiday or ill
  • Divert your phone when unavailable
  • Check yourself – do you need to send that email right now?