Often in business, we hear that we have to work harder than anyone else to be competitive. However, due to the events of 2020, a lot of leaders are placing a keen focus on finding balance in their lives. Our guest on The Rankings Podcast Joe Fried has made his career by becoming an expert in the niche of trucking law. His breadth of knowledge and skill has taken years to accomplish.

“Show me a successful person who has balanced and I’ll show you a successful person who built their life on balance. Success isn’t born from balance. Success is born from concentration on something.”

If success is born from concentration, then we could safely assume that distraction is the nemesis to success! So, what’s taking our focus away from reaching our heights?

The Bad Side Of Tech

Tech advances have made our jobs easier in so many ways – even thinking of the pre-Slack days makes some leaders shiver! But emerging links between technology use and work-life balance are worrying. We have virtually uninterrupted access to our firms and organizations at any time of the day. Even if we’re not strictly ‘on call’, there is a sense of urgency that comes with constant notifications and incoming emails. At the end of the day, it can be hard to pull the plug!

The past year has made it more difficult than ever to leave the email inbox alone! A survey of 2,800 workers by Los Angeles-based staffing firm Robert Half showed that:

“Nearly 70 percent of professionals who transitioned to remote work because of the pandemic say they now work on the weekends, and 45 percent say they regularly work more hours during the week than they did before”

Working from home initially gave us a sense of control. However, a few months down the line, and many of us find that the lines are increasingly blurred between work and home.

The Risk Of Burnout

“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress.”

Never switching off can have drastic consequences on work-life balance. The phenomenon of burnout has been well-documented. In the short term, productivity and mental health are severely affected. In addition, job burnout has been linked to emotional exhaustion and depersonalized feelings toward clients and coworkers. Numerous studies have shown that burnout leads to a sustained increase in cortisol which has many ramifications, from hair loss to weight gain. It’s scary stuff!

And if it’s true for leaders, it’s true for employees too. According to Harvard Business Review, the psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees cost an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the United States. Add to that high turnover rates and the associated costs for the organization, and you can see why burnout should be mitigated.

How To Encourage Balance

Effectiveness and working life can be different for everyone. It’s important for both leaders and their employees to strike a balance between work and family, between on and off. Empathetic leaders who want to encourage their teams to take time off can try:

  • Implementing ‘office hours’ for the firm – get in the habit of not replying to emails until you’re ‘open’ for the day
  • Make sure employees know exactly when they are expected to be on call, and when they’re not
  • Encouraging staff to pursue health, wellbeing, and personal goals
  • Increase the support provided for parents
  • Focus on productivity, rather than hours
  • Promote official channels and single-source communication
  • Provide work-specific equipment, tech, computers, phones to enable mental separation
  • Regularly review workloads

As a leader, your job is to set the standard for how you expect your employees to behave. Your example will filter down to others, so practice what you preach!