How a 'meshed' world is changing our working habits

By: Sabelline Chicot

Date: 28 April 2014

How a 'meshed' world is changing our working habits/ Exhausted businesswoman{{}}Forget about a work-life balance. We now live in a ‘meshed’ world, where everything we do bleeds into areas that previously would have been kept separate.

For most people, there is little division between what happens inside and outside of the workplace. While some argue this shift has increased efficiency and output, enabling the hardest-working and most dedicated employees to shine, increasingly, strains are beginning to show.

In workplaces everywhere, employee stress and anxiety levels are at an unprecedented high, with an associated decrease in employee satisfaction. So what are employers to do to?

The first defence is awareness. A good manager always keeps an eye on individual employee morale, but in today’s climate it’s more important than ever to recognise signs of stress, burnout, distraction, exhaustion or other symptoms shown by an employee who never switches off. Tell tale signs can be (but aren’t limited to): 

  • Irritability, anger or mood swings.
  • Confusion, lack of productivity or signs that a previously conscientious and competent employee is struggling to complete their work to deadline or required quality.
  • Inability or refusal to cooperate.

Ideally, employers will have proactive measures in place, such as an open-door policy of communication, regular risk assessments and effective health and safety training. Designating an employee-assistance programme and making all employees aware of it is also key to a healthy workplace.

Encouraging employees to have a balanced lifestyle (including time and access to fitness facilities and nutritious food in or near the workplace) is a start. Such progressive measures still might not mitigate the effects of constant connectivity, however, because time away from the desk doesn’t always mean time away from the screen.

Businesses may be reluctant to lose their competitive edge by discouraging employees from leaving all work ‘at the office,’ just as meticulous workers will feel they’re not keeping up if they switch off. If you think about it, when was the last time you left work at work, refusing to check your inbox in the evening or ignoring emails at the weekend? Chances are, it’s been quite some time.

Employers have a responsibility to alert staff to the pitfalls of stress and burnout, which can have far-reaching and long-term effects, culminating at some point in a negative outcome for the business. So whether it’s organising social outings, pushing employees to take device-free lunches or reassessing individual targets to reinstate a better work-life balance, setting new priorities could be the first step toward a healthier workplace.

Blog supplied by Sabelline Chicot, business writer and editor working in digital publishing. Follow her on Twitter at @sabellinechicot.

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