At the same time as making communication quicker and easier technology has also led to a rise in stress levels and working hours. But it doesn’t have to be this way, says Richard Morris, UK CEO, at global workspace provider Regus.
The digital revolution has led to some serious advances in working flexibility meaning that we are no longer required to be in the office within the fixed hours of a 9-5 in order to be productive. Consequently, however, we can find it much harder to know when to stop. When you hold in your hand a communication tool that’s Wi-Fi-enabled and powered by 4G, your lunch break isn’t your lunch break anymore. What’s more, the commute is a very real and active part of your working day and those precious weekends are no longer your own. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case; there are ways to have the flexibility that technology brings and a division between work and home.
E-mails aren’t always the most effective way to communicate
E-mails are one of the main productivity killer culprits. Refreshing, reading and responding to e-mails is so ingrained into our working lives that it seems strange to think that they might have a negative effect on our output. But trying to stay on top of your e-mail can feel a bit like being on a treadmill, as the tasks continue to come in and gradually mount up.
To counter this effect make sure you prioritise your time. Check your e-mails every hour or two, not every minute or two. It used to be the norm to send a non-digital message and expect a response in a matter of hours, and businesses survived just fine.
There can also be a temptation to use emails for conversations that would be better conducted on the phone or even in person. Even if you’re not in your main office meeting rooms are readily available at flexible workspace locations across the UK. These professionally equipped facilities will give you the opportunity to get that all-important face-to-face time with colleagues, clients and partners, rather than find yourself in continuous, and often confusing, digital dialogue.
Look after your mind – physically separate work from home
The human brain is a robust tool but it can also be a delicate thing. There are plenty of techniques you can easily practise to help you detach and de-stress. Ironically, there are also plenty of apps and websites to help you – such as Headspace or Do Nothing for Two Minutes. And if the idea of using your computer to heal the stress caused by too many computers just seems far too absurd, you can’t go wrong with an old-fashioned remedy – leave your phone on the desk, step out of the office, and take a ten-minute walk outside. Fresh air, natural surroundings and small talk with a stranger can all do a lot to help you momentarily disconnect from a world full of e-mails, spreadsheets and Skype.
Professionals working from home often do so because they want to reduce stress by cutting time spent commuting and adopt a flexible approach to work. However, the opposite can often be the reality as a home-based office means they are constantly ‘on call’ and unable to get the appropriate separation of work and home life.
Flexible workspaces offer a useful third option. There’s a large network of these locations across the UK, meaning that the vast majority of workers will be able to find one close by. By having a dedicated workplace, away from home, you’ll be far more likely to minimise work interruptions during your free time. Similarly, by leaving all the usual home distractions like chores and children behind, when you go to work you can maximise your productivity.
Technology has undoubtedly done wonders for flexible working but you shouldn’t have to trade those advances in exchange for your free time. Simple changes to work practices can offer the best of both worlds.