24/7 Manager – Tips for switching off outside core working hours

With advancements in technology and the world seeming a smaller, more accessible place, I’ve fallen into the habit of being available all the time, night or day, 7 days a week.  I have management responsibilities and feel like I can’t ignore calls and emails as my team know that I carry my mobile phone with me everywhere I go and expect me to answer.  How do I achieve the elusive work-life balance?

I’m not going to give you the glib answer which is to switch off your mobile phone outside of working hours as I suspect that this suggestion will make you reel in horror at the thought of doing so. Especially if you use your phone for both work and personal purposes. But I do have some tips for you that may just change your life for the better.

Did you know that you can change your phone settings to disable your work emails, calendars and reminders outside of your core working hours?  How you do this will depend on the type of device that you use but it’s worth spending 5 minutes having a play to work it out.

That feels like too big a step for me.  Also, I’m not sure I would remember to turn them off and on again at appropriate times.  Is there anything else that I can do?

Yes, you can turn off the notifications on your phone.  So many of us react to our devices like one of Pavlov’s dogs to a bell.  Just turn the noises or vibrations off.

But what if I miss something that really needed my attention?  

OK, there will be times when you are needed out of normal hours.   My advice is to set clear expectations with your team.  Communicate your core availability; tell them that you trust their ability to figure things out and only to contact you if they really need you.

You could set a default ‘out of office’ message on your email address with a message that tells the person sending you an email outside of your core hours that you are unlikely to check your emails until 9am the next day but, if their matter is really urgent, they should text or call you to request a time to discuss.

Even if I do that, I know that my team will just ignore it, call me anyway or criticise me for not responding immediately.  How do I deal with that?

Firstly, try setting the boundaries with your team as I have suggested.  Secondly, try to stick to them.  Take your time back.  Apart from it being a legal requirement to take adequate rest breaks, you need a break and will probably be more productive for doing so.

If you can’t resist having a sneak peek at your emails, assess whether or not you really need to respond there and then.  If you want to get something off your ‘to do’ list by drafting a response, consider whether to delay sending that response until the next working day.  You can also do this in your email settings without having to retrieve a draft of the email and press ‘send’ the following day.

Is there anything else that I can do?

Think about your communications with others outside of working hours.  Do you really need to invade their downtime with your issue, or can it wait until tomorrow?  I bet in most cases it can! If your team see you sending emails at 11.30 at night, they might think you expect the same of them which isn’t encouraging a culture of work-life balance. Set the standard by limiting your contact to a minimum outside core hours.

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