Restoring Balance In An Over-Connected Workplace

While technology has improved the workplace in countless ways, the ability to be connected 24/7 created a dramatic shift from the historical 9-to-5 schedule. A side effect of this shift is the blurred lines between professional time and personal time, and research indicates this is starting to take a toll on your employees. According to the “Human Capital Trends 2015: Leading In the New World Of Work” published by Deloitte University Press, “the 2014 [report’s] chapter on “the overwhelmed employee” became one of the most popular articles Deloitte has ever published — a sign that the phenomenon was hitting organizations even faster and harder than we thought.”

Between managing teams across multiple time zones and the sheer volume of information shared in one day, your teams believe that taking work home is the only way to accomplish their tasks. The report’s data confirms these claims, citing “the average employee now spends over one-quarter of their workday reading and answering emails, and employees now check their mobile devices more than 150 times a day.” The time has come to re-imagine the work/life balance in the digital age. The authors believe your HR team has a strong responsibility to set the tone with these changes, stating, “HR should be the catalyst for the entire organization to declutter, advising the business on how to save time and reduce the number of emails and meetings.” The report identified your HR team should focus on simplifying processes, implementing intuitive software, and promoting time management to help your employees restore balance in their professional lives.

Simplify Procedures

An unexpected finding in Deloitte’s research was the increase in budget and man-hours to execute procedures and address compliance issues. The data is staggering: “A bank reported compliance costs tripled in the past 3 years, software giant Adobe reported its performance management process requires 1.8 million billable hours annually, and a manufacturing firm reported over 4,000 different tasks and compliance procedures to build a core product”. One way to restore balance in your employee’s schedules is to work with senior leadership to audit their practices and simplify procedures throughout your organization.

Implement Intuitive Software

Another key area for improvement is providing intuitive software that requires minimal training for your employees to be productive. The report indicated, “HR teams should serve as an organizational role model by leveraging interface designers and process experts to make work systems more functional and easier to use.” Providing simplified technology to support job functions also requires less direct training, which lends well to informal learning and coaching within your teams. Less time spent in formal training programs leads to less overtime spent catching up on daily tasks, providing another step towards restoring your team’s work/life balance.

Effective Time Management

There are countless systems on how top performers budget their time to maximize productivity, but what about items that are out of your employee’s control? The staff meeting that drags on unnecessarily. The conference call that had too many attendees to be effective. Low value emails copied to a wide audience. The report indicated “some companies are starting to treat “time capital” with the same seriousness as financial capital”, and shared case studies on global firms (such as Coca-Cola and Google) whose HR teams implemented guidelines to reduce the volume of emails and meetings. Your HR team should re-evaluate the systematic time constraints placed upon your employees and look for opportunities to reduce or eliminate excess meetings.

Technology continues to be an asset in the world of business, but the increased connectivity is taking a toll on your top performers. Between laptops, smart phones, and VPN connections, many employees feel obligated to be connected and available outside of their stated working hours. Over time, these extended work hours could lead to an overwhelmed staff and reduced employee satisfaction. While many leaders agree work/life balance is a pervasive challenge, the tide is just starting to turn where policies are concerned. Deloitte’s survey found that “10 percent of companies have programs to simplify work practices and 44 percent are planning to build such programs — indicating that just over 5 in 10 organizations are directly trying to address this challenge.” Make it a priority to audit your organization to uncover opportunities to simplify procedures, offer intuitive software, and eliminate low value activities.