At a time where the pandemic is spreading and many workers have not returned to the office for several months -or even a year, the issue of mental health is becoming more and more prevalent. And one aspect that can greatly influence it: work-personal life balance. We are discussing it with Yarledis Coneo, an expert on the topic.

She recalls that organizations already had to make an initial adjustment: changing mentality regarding the possibility of offering telework. While this flexibility for employees was only an exception before the pandemic, it has almost become the norm today. Hence the lack of hindsight and experience on the new issues that this generates.

Knowing the omnipresence of technologies adds to the mental burden, we spend more time in front of a screen, whether for work or entertainment. The brain then receives more information and gets tired faster. And since the boundary between personal and professional life has collapsed, we feel a sense of fatigue and guilt, even when we are no longer working.

Now that telework seems to be here to stay, organizations will need to think and act on several elements: 

  • How can the offer of telework be adapted to meet staff and organization needs? To maximize the benefits of telework and reduce its risks, studies suggest a “hybrid” mode.
  • Beyond telework, what work-family balance measures will help maintain my team’s health and productivity?
  • Does my organization’s culture promote health and performance in telework? Are my managers equipped to manage remotely?

According to Yarledis Coneo, this is clearly a shared responsibility! All employees must be involved in this process, from the IT team to the HR managers, going through managers, unions or legal experts.

“It is important to always act at three levels: at the organization’s level (politics, resources, etc.), managers and staff. For example, providing training is an excellent first step. But at the same time, we have to go further and intervene in the whole culture of the organization”, she says.

 Here is what she recommends:

For HR and managers:

  • If you have disconnection initiatives in place, do your best to lead by example.
  • Clearly identify your expectations. For example, explain the expected response time to emails.
  • Paint a picture of the different digital technologies available to your teams and assess their relevance. Often, a big clean up is necessary!

On this point, she cites an example of a manager with whom she had recently discussed. Before the pandemic, he only had his email and his instant messaging tool. Today, he named 7 different platforms!

“I feel like I have 50 mailboxes in front of my house!, he explains. I take my phone everywhere with me to make sure I don’t miss anything.”

But do we really need all these tools that ultimately add a lot of stress?

“The ideal is laudable. But is it still relevant and do people really know how to use them? It’s not necessary to have more but to use them better,” she says.

For employees:

  • Discuss your work-life balance issues with your manager.
  • Offer yourself the means to mentally separate work and personal life. For example, create small transition rituals to tell your brain that the work day is over. Some people go for a walk, others change clothes, it varies from person, but it is important to do it especially if you do not have a closed space dedicated to work at home.

“Moments of disconnection are important to replenish your energy, to have quality time for you and your loved ones, to maintain productivity and mental health,” she adds.

Tips for balancing your personal and work life

The advisor also gives 4 tips, rather for managers, to succeed in ensuring that (tele)work does not interfere too much on your privacy. Quite a challenge when you know that the telephone can be an object for work… and leisure/social connections at the same time!

1. Periodically reassess workloads

The situation is constantly changing and that has an impact on the way we work. It is important to consider this burden by multiplying the means of communication, for example, the increase in the number of emails.

2. Work with flexibility

For example, working together to establish team objectives and priorities and to break down the work into clear steps. This allows the progress of the results to be assessed, adjusted as necessary, and negotiated without compromising the results.

3. Communicate expectations explicitly

Especially in relation to what is expected in terms of connection. The response time of the email, the connection time… Because often, if we see people connected, we will stay connected. 

4. Create a climate and space for dialogue

To make people feel comfortable naming their boundaries and asking for help if needed.

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