With hybrid work, the lines between work and home have gotten blurred. With many people trading their hour-long commute for the distance between their bedroom and kitchen table and the impacts of technology keeping us all connected 24/7, it’s harder for employees to make the mental shift of ending the workday and leaving the office.
Not continuously having the change in scenery makes it challenging for some employees to turn off work mode and be present at home. Senior leaders must pay attention to these trends and ensure that your organization’s policies align with a positive company culture—which includes encouraging your employees to unplug.
Why are traditional business hours harder to maintain?
Working from home brings new solutions (and challenges) for redefining the standard 9-to-5 schedule. For those on teams with people in other time zones, some meetings are early in the morning or late in the evening. It allows employees to organize their day with more autonomy and prioritize tasks based on when they are most productive during the day. The flexibility also enables employees to structure their time around other personal responsibilities such as school drop-offs or doctor’s appointments. For those that prefer traditional hours, it can be hard to maintain that schedule and resist the urge to work sooner or later to accommodate the rest of the team. Many people report working more hours now than ever before, leading to burnout and making them more likely to be part of the Great Resignation.
How can managers and leaders encourage unplugging?
Because people leaders are more hands-on involved with employees than C-Suite leaders, they play a critical role in setting the tone for the culture that employees interact with daily. Those who have a manager who never takes time off or consistently sends emails at off hours may not feel comfortable taking vacation based on their manager’s possible perception. An HBR article highlighted that when managers have expectations (heavy workload, last-minute urgent requests, etc.), that conflict with the employee’s personal wellness goals, it can harm their work-life balance and overall performance. Organizations must ensure that managers promote the policies on their teams and create a psychologically safe environment for their direct reports to voice concerns and feel confident to unplug without fear of derailing their careers.
Forbes Human Resources Council outlines several ways that leaders can encourage their teams to unplug, including:
- Openly discuss the organization’s PTO policy.
- Encourage the use of “just because” PTO days.
- Establish designated company holidays outside of the “universal” dates (i.e. Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, etc.).
- Make work-life balance an organizational priority.
- Lead by example and utilize your own PTO.
- Incorporate taking vacation days as an annual review goal.
- Avoid emailing your team when they are on PTO.
- Send monthly PTO balance reminders to your team.
- Volunteer to be listed as your employee’s out-of-office point of contact during their absence.
- At the organizational level, consider implementing an unlimited PTO policy.
- Discuss unplugging during 1:1 meetings.
- Ensure that workload coverage is balanced between those who are not on PTO to avoid any one person taking on too much on someone else’s behalf on top of their own assignments.
These ideas are a great starting point for leaders and executives to analyze internal policies and culture to determine what next steps are needed. Encourage leaders to gather feedback from their teams on how comfortable they feel with unplugging and whether the organization truly supports taking time off.
How can organizations support unplugging?
With time off being one of the most sought-after employee benefits, organizations must ensure that their policies help them remain an employer of choice. One of the ways organizations can support unplugging is by giving employees more say in their working hours. Unlike in previous generations, many of today’s workforce view their job as a component of their life as opposed to their identity. They view work as the vehicle that allows them to support their lifestyle and pursue their personal interests.
Giving employees the ability to utilize a flex or hybrid schedule allows employees to focus on work when they are their most productive and allows them to maintain their hobbies and commitments. Creating official policies inclusive of this mindset allows unplugging to be engrained into the company culture as well as reduces the stigma employees may feel surrounding asking for time off. For example, Adobe offers four weeks of fully paid sabbatical to vacation, volunteer, or simply recharge at home, for employees who have been with the company for at least five years.
In addition to how we have learned to work during the pandemic, the ability to work from anywhere also brings potential benefits for supporting unplugging and creating a more supportive corporate culture. If feasible, allowing employees to work outside of the geographic home base of the organization can expand your pool of potential hires. It also enables current employees to improve their work-life balance and overall well-being through options such as being closer to family, living in a more cost-effective city, or exploring new places. These are all ways that expanding your organization’s remote footprint can benefit your culture.
Organizations today face a lot of competition for retaining and recruiting top talent. Ensuring that your company is inclusive, growth-oriented, and people-first is critical to building a healthy corporate culture. Empower your leaders to encourage their teams to unplug and truly unplug when they take time off. Employees are trying to preserve their mental health as they navigate the stresses of a global health crisis with maintaining productivity and arguably need to unplug now more than ever. Providing a safe space for employees to impact the organization and participate in activities and causes that matter to them pays invaluable dividends for the health of your organization and your biggest asset—your people.