Switching off from work
Author Neil Andrews, Associate, Red Tiger Consulting
The last three months have been a revelation for me as I took the decision six months ago to consciously leave the big corporate world, at least for a while, and make some important lifestyle changes.
Despite a love and passion for my job and company it dawned on me one long-haul flight that although this is something I absolutely loved it wasn’t sustainable, I just never switched off and was constantly connected with work. I had become totally flexible and footloose, travelling across the pond and beyond every few weeks, my life in a small backpack, nothing bigger than 100ml, laptop and my gym trainers swinging from one side.
Over time I had learnt to travel lean and smart and I loved it, it was an adventure. With my laptop and iPhone, combined with the time zones and constantly being away from home meant I could work whenever I wanted to but with my exercising obsession meant I was burning the candle at both ends. On the flip side the fact I did do exercise and my strong belief in its benefits to mental wellbeing, probably kept me going for as long as I did and fortunately I didn’t burn out……but there was always the conscious voice at the back of my mind telling me it could happen.
More connected than ever
It’s not ground-breaking to say that we are more connected than ever and even with the best will in the world it’s hard to truly switch off from work, blurring our personal and professional lives. This blurring is increasing all the time. It has created this expectation of an immediate response, FOMO (fear of missing out) and that work is building up. For me it was compounded, by the fact I worked for an American company, with team members in various time zones. The weeks when I was at home in the UK the mornings were when I was at my best and most creative, I could truly focus…until the US woke up and emails kicked in…. I was hooked, they knew I would respond, and it was a big distraction from getting the work done. Notifications are a killer for productivity; by getting distracted, switching gears can be highly disruptive and it takes longer to do each task. The phenomenon of people getting distracted by mobile phones is increasing.
Does it even matter?
In this ever-connected world does it even matter if we are always switched on with work? Of course, it does, the mental and physical implications are clear…. increased tiredness, fatigue, sleep problems. You are likely to become more stressed and anxious, make poor food choices…. which snowballs into bigger health implications. The key is the frequency of processing and thinking about work and when you should be switched off. That frequency depends on the individual & when you see the signs it is getting too much. Its about self-awareness and monitoring. Technology is great, its empowering and gives us so much flexibility but it’s how we optimise its use to make our lives better rather than being governed by it. It’s a personal choice what you want to give your energy to, and it shouldn’t always be a screen. We must be better at self-management by creating boundaries and rules but unfortunately as humans this isn’t one of our core strengths.
Technology can save us!
Ironically technology can help, including your smart phone, which has taken the brunt of the blame for this blurring. I love mobile network Three’s latest marketing campaign, which uses #PhonesAreGood as the tag line and shows Henry VIII swiping left on Tinder, which subsequently saves his wives. For me this isn’t about work / life balance anymore it’s about life.
In the Andrews household we have made some conscious decisions. Apple in their latest iOS update have introduced “Screen Time” and for me it really is a blessing…it has given me that nudge that I just wasn’t strong enough to do myself. The only phone function that works after 7pm is receiving calls so I can still be contacted if something really is super urgent with all other notifications coming through after 8am the next day. All other apps you must consciously override the system and even then, access is limited to 15 minutes – the fact it prompts you to override is a great way of stopping yourself.
Despite John Lewis announcing last month they are reducing their alarm clock range by 30% as people use their phones to wake them up in the summer we went retro and purchased one, no longer having to have our phones by our bedsides. I even use Microsoft Teams and One Note to divide my day to achieve all objectives, focusing on specific tasks and not get distracted by notifications. Emails are slowly becoming redundant. Occasionally I will flick on airplane mode for 30 minutes to get something done so the project in hand has my exclusive focus.
Change is good
Building on Steve’s blog earlier this month, “don’t let life get in the way of living” don’t put off your goals and break things down into small objectives. “Switching off” was one of mine for 2018 and I have come along way in addressing that. I didn’t need to leave a company to achieve this, it was being addressed either way, but it certainly expedited the process. Don’t put off these goals and certainly don’t wait until January each year. Make small conscious decisions which subsequently create a fundamental shift in behaviour and mindset.
If one of your goals is a change in lifestyle and career, then Red Tiger can help. If you would like careers advice or are looking for roles in any of our specialist fields, then get in touch by contacting email@example.com or upload your CV.