The amount of hours worked is soaring. But work output isn’t.
The amount of time spent connected online is soaring. But employee connection isn’t.
Both of these problems are symbolic of the current state of work; plugged in, always on and over-heating. Without the home/work reference point for many, we’re less able to disconnect. We’ve become more connected to our laptops than each other.
It’s why now is the time for HR to help foster employee connection through disconnecting. To help people peel themselves away from the screen and reglue themselves to each other.
This blog is different.
Usually, these blog posts we write are about practical HR tools and tips. 7 Ways to achieve X. 5 things you can do today for Y. How to do Z. Which, don’t get me wrong, do help. I know because they’re used here at intelliHR.
But I wrote this differently. Sitting at my home desk sipping my green tea, I thought to myself; the last thing you need is another list of ideas for doing your job, splatted on a blog page. Sometimes it’s better hearing that others are going through the same struggle. A struggle you can’t see from the outside. One that we all must deal with.
We’re all on overdrive
A lot of us are working too much. There’s not much else to do – it’s become a boredom filler. And as HR, that should worry you. Because when life becomes work, productivity dips. Mental health takes a nosedive. Employee wellbeing gets suffocated under layers of work stress and to-do tasks.
It’s why now might be the time for HR to ramp up disconnection efforts.
Disconnecting to reconnect.
Disconnecting doesn’t sound like an employee connection program. Disconnecting is the opposite of connection. But that’s the whole point. For employee connection to happen, work disconnection must also happen. Time is a shared commodity.
We’re all finding it hard to disconnect. Work emails are sent at 10 pm. Saturday mornings get spent ‘finishing’ off a niggling project. Even after signing off, we’re online, status ‘active’. Waiting for a notification to reel us back into another 30 minutes of work.
It’s why we must figure out how to disconnect. Because disconnecting with work is part of reconnecting with each other. What this looks like is different for every organisation, but the crux of it is this.
Employee connection is about not doing work.
That’s the tricky part; the truth is employee connection is about the moments that happen in between work. A hallway conversation. The 10 steps between desk and elevator. The afternoon catchup that happens as the kettle boils in the communal kitchen. Getting sidetracked sharing stories about kids weekend sport.
These moments of non-work connection are what fuels the culture of great companies. They are social vitamins, culture nutrients. Nourishment which happens naturally in workplaces, and unnaturally remotely.
It’s why our entire HR community, over 150+ HR teams doing amazing work, are being deliberate. They’re all taking measures to build connection into their employees’ day-to-day diaries.
Carving times out of the calendar for non-work activities. Replacing the social break you get casually walking to the office kitchen with a remote-team policy for an afternoon walk. Social buffers at the start of meetings. Little things.
Habitual practices that lead to a healthy work-life culture. And employee connection.
A few practical ideas
If you’ve made it this far through this blog, I commend you. Thanks. For that, I feel I owe you a few practical ideas you can take away to help employees unplug.
- Encourage managers to set boundaries
See our past blog post on Remote work-life balance, with 3 tips from the ‘Manager’s Manager’ Glenn Donaldson on how to help your teams rebalance by setting boundaries.
- Make disconnecting easy
Set offline periods where applications are unavailable.
- Safeguard time through policy (extreme)
Company-wide black-out periods with no email/chat permitted. Many organisations have implemented a no email blackout policy outside of 8 am -6 pm Mon-Fri.
- Lead by example
Leaders set the tone. HR can get leaders to help set the tone for when employees should disconnect. The trick is to make the example very public (eg, Slack/office-wide broadcasts). Company-wide emails or messages work well. From all levels of leadership – CEO down to team leaders.
- Celebrate the end of the workday
Announcing the end of the workday by celebrating the good work achieved validates employees, promotes recognition AND helps signal to those online that it might be time to turn off. It puts a positive spin on your ‘sign-off’ announcement.
“Thanks for the hard work today! We made huge strides. We’ve done enough for today. Time to sign off. See you tomorrow.” – Sent, 05:01pm
- Set hours in the calendar
Encourage employees to set their hours in their calendar applications (Outlook, Google Calendar etc). This prohibits anyone from booking meetings outside these hours.
- Help employees share their hobbies
Everyone has a hobby. And most people love sharing them. One way you can encourage work-disconnection is to have a hobby sharing channel or meeting, a place that promotes employees talking and sharing something other than work.
Disconnecting is hard for HR, too.
Most of this comes from the viewpoint of an employee. The truth is, disconnecting is even harder for HR. Because on top of facing the same ‘always-on’ problems employees do, HR has to worry about employees facing these issues. Double the disconnection stress.
That’s why HR people just like you might need this reminder more than anyone else: its time we disconnected to reconnect.