In a recent webinar, I heard Harvard Business School Professor Leslie Perlow share the secrets from her new book about changing the way we work to achieve greater personal balance, while also becoming more effective and efficient. She describes the challenges and benefits of disconnecting, and provides a step-by-step guide to changing how our teams work.
Perlow says many of us are becoming addicted to a cycle of responsiveness where we put ourselves under increasing pressure to be available and “always on.” In short, her formula for better balance is “create a collective goal of predictable time off + structured dialogue = better work and better lives.” The team must start by agreeing on a particular night of the week where everyone is “off” – no work, no phone, and no email after 6 pm. They then have a weekly conversation about how the process is working. As simple as it sounds, Perlow says her initial research shows that leaders and employees alike were more satisfied with their work-life balance and with their work in general once they employed her formula. By confronting the “never-ending workweek” the firm (her research group) was also better able to recruit and retain employees.
As a smartphone junkie, who often works well beyond 8 pm in the evening, I found the information presented both interesting and informative. The power of Dr. Perlow’s formula is in its simplicity. The process doesn’t require organizational or management approval. It merely requires agreement among your fellow team members to start making change and reduce the stress load associated with always being available and “on.” The book is based on findings from one workgroup, so additional research will be necessary to confirm its generalizability and effectiveness across various organizations and cultures. However, I believe the concepts will resonate with most western organizations.
So many issues of physical and mental health are triggered or exacerbated by stress. And, in today’s work world stress has become a twenty-four-seven phenomenon. Therefore, if you are trying to find better harmony in your life rather than giving in to the mounting pressure to always be “on” then I think you (like me) will enjoy this book. After all, who wouldn’t benefit from some additional energy and resources at our disposal for personal pursuits that enrich our lives, in addition to increasing our ability to cope with ever-present personal life challenges and stressors; and who knows, just perhaps we may even reduce the likelihood or severity of a stress-induced cold, backache or migraine this winter? Cheers to your success and health!