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In IT Together blog: Logging on while switching off
27 Jul 2022
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in how we live our lives. For many of us, where once was a commute, a designated workspace, or more importantly, a routine, we now enjoy a greater level of freedom in our approach to working. The greater openness and flexibility of employers to offer remote working, either permanently or more often as a hybrid working environment, has widely been praised by employees.
With the majority of us now enjoying a blended approach to the workspace, it’s unlikely to change anytime soon – and why would it? At a time where the cost of living is soaring, organisations can benefit through reduced operating costs, while employees spend less time and money commuting.
On paper, it’s a win-win situation. However, is the reality different? Have the lines between work and home life become blurred, and as we enter the summer holiday season, are employees truly switching off? Revisiting a piece of research we also conducted last year, we again spoke to 300 US and UK ITDMs to find out how their views and experiences have changed over the last 12 months.
Working out of hours
Technology is ever evolving, and in a world where connectivity is key, businesses are implementing various technologies to further their goals. With a greater number of employees working remotely, the element of connectivity has never been more crucial.
It’s essential that today’s workforce can access work-related content efficiently and securely. In fact, the vast majority (97%) of IT decision makers report that they use multiple devices for accessing work-related content, with three being used on average. This of course has its benefits - improving communications and flexibility to name a few - but is this greater level of access becoming a burden?
Just over a third (34%) of respondents report that they access work-related content outside of their normal working hours on a daily basis. This figure is down from 2021, where around four in ten (39%) reported the same. So, whilst still a burden for many, this could suggest that respondents are becoming more accustomed to working remotely and are now striking a better work/life balance as a result.
With 97% of employees accessing work related content outside of their normal working hours to some extent, it’s likely all of us will experience this at some point, whether it be down to a looming deadline or a request for help from a colleague. There is a mix of opinions as to whether this is done willingly or not – while only the minority feel strongly either for (12%) or against (7%) doing so, most (82%) lie somewhere in between, suggesting an acknowledgement that is may be the current reality of their working lives. Indeed, the vast majority (84%) of ITDMs agree that working outside of normal working hours has now been normalized. With nearly half (49%) of this group saying they actually favour this; it seems that it’s now accepted as part of their role.
Out of office, but still online?
It's not all work and no play though. As the holiday season approaches, the idea is more of us will be trading the laptop for white sandy beaches, switching off from all things back home. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case for everyone, with nearly half (47%) of respondents reporting that when they take a week or more off, they check in, or work at least most days. Encouragingly, this is down from 62% the previous year, which could suggest that we’re slowly learning to switch off as we emerge from the disruption of recent years. There is still some way to go before we get there though.
We’re sure we’ve all felt the apprehension when opening our inboxes from a period of annual leave. The mountain of emails to sift through, trying to identify what tasks are urgent, what deadlines are just around the corner. So perhaps it’s not a surprise that employees log on during their time away if nothing else but to alleviate that workload on the first morning back.
In fact, the majority (54%) of those who log on during their annual leave do so to catch up on smaller tasks or admin. However, just under half (45%) report that they do so because it’s too easy to access their work while on holiday/annual leave. Perhaps having that greater level of access is a burden after all.
Despite logging on while on annual leave, it’s still really important to return to the office feeling refreshed. After all, we are taking time off work to enjoy ourselves. Unfortunately, for those that log on to some extent while on annual leave, only 15% report that they return to work completely rested and recharged.
If this becomes seen by employees as a cultural necessity for them to progress in their career, this has the potential to be hugely damaging for organisations. Of those that return to work not completely rested and recharged, around eight in ten (81%) report that there are consequences to feeling this way. With both the employee and organisation set to lose, respondents report increased stress levels (42%), lower motivation (40%) and lower levels of productivity (34%).
So, do organisations need to do more to encourage employees to switch off outside of normal working hours? Well, 84% of our respondents agree that their organisation does.
It’s important that we’re all comfortable in our roles, and from what we’ve seen it’s not a one size fits all approach. Some of us log on outside of working hours, while others prefer to switch off.
However, in a world where working outside of our usual hours has been normalised, it’s important that everyone finds their own way to step back and enjoy time away from the workplace. Failing to return to work well rested will not only have consequences for the organisation, but also the mental health of employees.
One final thought - for those who prefer to be more switched on. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen the advent of a new term, the workcation, a combination of both being on vacation and working When asked, 84% of respondents agreed that when managed correctly a workcation could be beneficial to them.
Ultimately, work life balance is a moving and ongoing conversation between employee and employer. With much greater flexibility required from all to ensure happiness and productivity on both sides, tipping the scales too much in one direction, or the other, will have consequences for all.
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