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Switch off when you switch off

Updated: Mar 26

This weekly tweak is part of our series to make work better together - get it direct to your inbox.

Working across time zones, supercomputers in our pockets, working from home, and flexible working - all create incredible opportunities but can also blur the lines between work and non-work.

We are so used to instant responses and an always-on mentality, that it’s incredibly difficult to switch off. Added to that, always on, working late, and presenteeism have long been rewarded and praised in the workplace, even when we talk about balance.

I once sat in a leadership meeting where the CEO bemoaned the fact that when he was leaving in the evenings at 5pm, so many of the employees were packing up to go home. “Where was their dedication?” he declared. The irony!

As a result, we can hold beliefs that leaving or logging off at 5pm or 6pm is frowned upon. We believe there is an expectation that we reply, or take the odd call when taking time off work. We all play a part in fostering that spirit. I run my own business and I catch myself feeling guilty taking time off or leaving early because of deep-seated behaviours that I’ve learned and adopted over the years.

How often do you head into your break needing a few days to recover before you can even start to rest and enjoy the time off? Our weekends are the same, midway through Saturday we start to really unwind before we just check in on Sunday to prepare for the week ahead.

Innovation and creativity are some of the greatest assets we humans can bring to the workplace. When we don’t take the time to switch off when we are focused on hyper-productivity, our ability to solve complex problems can decrease.

We need to switch off and not think about them for our brains to go off and solve them while we go off and enjoy ourselves. It's a psychological theory called The Zeigarnik Effect. It’s why we get Eureka moments when we are out walking or in the shower. Solutions to challenges we’ve been trying to tackle head-on seemingly pop into our heads when we least expect it.

This week's tweak to make work better - Switch off when you switch off

Do you really switch off when you take time off? Whether it's just the evening or you're taking a few days off, being able to free up your headspace on other things outside of work will actually help you solve problems, and be more creative and productive when you are at work.

  • Turn off ALL work-related notifications. Disconnect and ensure you have no reminders popping up on the devices that are reminding you of work

  • Set clear expectations with your colleagues when you are available

A better bonus tweak - our tip to make the tweak even better

Workplace culture isn’t a single person, it is the behaviours and interactions between people that set the tone of the culture.

With this in mind, how do you encourage and support your colleagues to switch off?

  • Do you send emails or messages after hours?

  • Schedule meetings outside normal working hours.

  • Have you made a work-related call or sent a message to someone on holiday?

There will always be emergencies, but if they are not extremely rare, then the collective expectations, behaviours, and systems* need to be examined.

*systems - when we talk about systems, we mean the human system that we work in. How we operate and interact - rather than IT systems.

Let's make work better together.

Michelle Wallace


A Better Work


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