Contributed by Cory Treffiletti, global head of marketing at Cisco Webex
In decades past, it was common for a young athlete to look to the bleachers after an incredible play—only to find an empty space where a parent should have been.
Work was demanding, and it wasn’t exactly acceptable to dip out of work at 3:30 pm to catch your kid’s soccer game. Busy executives continued to grind away in their offices, children felt somewhat neglected and, maybe, therapists reaped the rewards years later.
Today, the impact of technology on work-life balance is such that people can be personally and professionally engaged at the same time. Companies trust their team members enough that they feel comfortable providing remote work options. Instead of sacrificing personal experiences in favor of professional endeavors, workers can weave work throughout their days.
This has been incredibly empowering for countless companies, but it creates new challenges for team members who might struggle to unplug. As the working world gets acquainted with a new work-life balance, entrepreneurs and business leaders must find ways to help their team members have their cake and eat it too.
The importance of work-life balance can’t be overstated. Work is no longer a 9-to-5 task, and we’re all better off for it. We enjoy far more flexibility in how, when and where we work. Better yet, workers don’t feel like they have to choose between their jobs and their families.
There are pros and cons of a connected world, of course, but the overarching connectedness of the modern workplace has fundamentally altered how we approach work-life balance. It has allowed many organizations to implement more flexible work arrangements. Team members might work part of the time from home, part of the time in the office, a part of the time in shared working spaces.
Solutions such as video conferencing and virtual collaboration platforms have made it easier than ever for remote employees and in-office team members to work together on projects.
They’ve also made it easier than ever to be a workaholic.
As we blur the lines between work and personal time, there are fewer and fewer jobs where knowledge workers can leave their professional lives at the office. We might be at home and with our families, but we’re continually thinking about our duties at work. This is why it’s so important to be cognizant of why we’re using tech. Are you checking your email because you actually need to, or are you doing it purely out of habit?
As the future of work becomes the present, it will be increasingly important to help your team members feel like they have personal and professional lives.
Here are three ways technology and work-life balance can operate in tandem to support employees:
1. Embrace new tools (with security in mind).
The most important thing business leaders can do is to provide their teams with the latest and greatest in remote-work technology. They should be able to access whatever they need to do their jobs from afar—whether they’re using a smartphone, a laptop or a tablet.
Companies that embrace remote work must be mindful of security concerns also. A study by information security company Shred-it found that 86 percent of C-suite leaders believe remote work leads to increased security risks. To combat this risk, companies must establish protocols for how team members should access, alter, and transmit sensitive information—as well as what to do if anyone believes the information has been compromised.
2. Adjust course based on employee feedback.
Managing a team in an entrepreneurial environment is more than a once-a-week type of effort. One cannot simply set a policy and then walk away. Constantly communicating with and genuinely listening to employees is imperative to business success—particularly as it relates to technology and work-life balance.
Once you embrace cutting-edge tools and set policies for aspects like remote work or flexible hours, it’s time to gather feedback from team members. You must constantly try to determine whether your policies work for everyone they affect. After you gather that feedback, it’s time to massage your policies to ensure they work for your organization and create the culture you want.
Focus on aspects such as:
- The hours you expect team members to be available
- Standards for updating security software
- Whether they can have children at home while they’re working
Be clear about your expectations, but willing to listen to employee feedback if a certain policy is at odds with other priorities.
3. Encourage a culture of accountability.
Technology can’t exist on its own, which is why you must create a culture of accountability. And I’m not talking about just top-down accountability. Team members must hold each other accountable. This culture of accountability should discourage workers from taking advantage of their newfound flexibility and empower team members to call out anyone that violates those expectations.
None of this should tie back to timecards, though. Instead of forcing team members to fill out their hours every week and then judging whether they’re fully utilizing their time, you should look at the productivity of the team as a whole and then encourage team members to police themselves. It’s usually pretty obvious who’s working too much and who’s working too little, so give team members the ability to hold each other accountable.
Modern workers must understand the ebb and flow of professional duties. While your personal life might take priority on a given day—perhaps you really want to catch your daughter’s lacrosse game—your professional life could take precedence the next day. The beauty of this arrangement is that we are empowered to juggle our schedules as needed. Instead of fixed schedules that limit what we might accomplish, this dynamic and flexible new work-life balance benefits everyone.
Cory Treffiletti is the global head of marketing at Cisco Webex. Cory pioneered digital and data-driven marketing efforts as the chief marketing officer at Data Cloud, BlueKai and Voicea before its acquisition by Cisco. Cory has been a thought leader in the digital media landscape since 1994, helping build successful agencies such as i-Traffic, Freestyle Interactive, and Carat (Aegis). He is the author of Internet Ad Pioneers.