There is a toxic trend that is starting to chip away at the heart of a great job. Even when your colleagues lift you up, the work is satisfying and the pay is great, there is one cultural element that can suck the joy out of your day. That is the 24/7 culture. The expectations that you are always “on”. That you are always available; contactable by all and never too far away from a device. That your weekends and evenings are not your own and your finishing time is up for discussion!
It won’t surprise you to read that this comes up all the time in my work-life balance coaching and workshops. At the very best, it leaves people feeling frustrated and dissatisfied. At worst, it is severing impacting mental health and relationships.
The number one reason people feel like they can’t break away from it? It is a perceived lack of control!
You know me well enough by now, to know that I want a magic wand. I want to give you all the ability to create the work-life balance you need for you and your family.
Until I can create that, I am giving you my blog and my six ways to overcome a 24/7 work culture.
How to deal with work in a 24/7 culture
1. Is it real?
Take a step back and really reflect on where is the pressure coming from? What evidence do you have that there of the expectation that you are always “on” and available? Often, I find that these types of cultures come from internal pressure and expectation – when you bring it up with the “powers that be”, there is a surprise that anyone feels that way!
So, consider why you feel this way and what evidence you have that others expect it.
I often uncover that the need for 24/7 culture comes from a place of fear; fear of losing a contract, fear of a bad reputation, fear for your job. Let’s be blunt – why do you feel this way?
2. Set time boundaries
Make it clear when you are available and when you are not. I love my out of office and email signature (if you have no idea what I am on about, check out this blog). Here, I state what I do, where I am, when you can get me and what to do if something is REALLY URGENT. In reality, there is a small percentage of issues that have to be immediately dealt with! Sometimes “after hours” emails are more about that person getting something off their to-do list rather than wanting a response. (or in my case, I am doing a bit of work in the evening!)
3. Limit your technology
I don’t have any emails on my phone and let people know that in my out of office! It started due to my Luddite inability to GET them on there. However, now I have stepped away from some of the technology that was designed to make us more flexible but is often trapping us in this 24/7 culture. How would it feel if the only way you could get your emails were on a laptop or a PC? If you have to make an effort to access them? Are you less likely to check whilst watching Sunday night TV?
4. Set an example
Think about when you are working and set an example for your colleagues and staff (if you run a team). If you CHOOSE to work on a weekend or after hours, that is YOUR choice, but consider the impression that “5 pm on a Saturday emails” are making with the team. Could you set a “send delay” so they arrive during work hours?
Plan your day to make sure that meetings aren’t running over into the time staff are due to leave.
Don’t make your staff feel that the client is always right; ensure everyone gets the opportunity to have some time to themselves in the evenings (client’s included!).
5. Be solution focused
If this attitude for 24/7 is coming from the management, I urge you to push back and question why, but also be solution focused. If you find that you are expected to be 24/7 for clients, then start monitoring why client get in contact after hours. Is there a resource for quick links or answers that you can put on your out of office?
Can you delegate through systems; don’t forget the power of automation!
Is there a certain point in a process or time of year that people get in contact (if in fact they actually do!) What would that information mean?
6. If it won’t improve, walk away
This is the point that people forget. Often, many departments or businesses are so ingrained in this negative environment that they won’t change. If the adjustments I’ve mentioned before don’t work, or won’t even be considered, then find somewhere with a healthier environment. You will know now, from your experience, of what you want and don’t want in a role. You can use this information to investigate your next step.
The world of work is changing, what people want out of their career is changing, and many, many, organisations are aware of this. To stay competitive and to get the staff they need, they have to be more open-minded!
Progress is happening; it is not just organisations that are aware of the negative impact of a 24/7 culture, governments are too. Only last year, France made out of hours emails illegal for companies with more than 50 employees. That would represent over 99% of the businesses in the UK! Can you imagine? I doubt these businesses will go bust – if THEY can’t access emails then neither can theirlocal clients or suppliers. So, just think, how would it feel to push back and take control of your work-life balance again?
Join The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox, my Facebook group full of tips, conversations and coaching around work-life balance for working parents.