Work-life balance: On the clock

For many people, the internet and the smartphone have erased the division between work and private life. It’s not uncommon for people to look at their phone every twenty minutes or so to check for new emails, even when they’re off the clock. To find out how online communication has changed work-life balance and workforce expectations for others, we sat down with four super-busy people to get their points of view on the subject. These were their revelations:

Tawanda Mahere, director of emerging markets at Jide Technology: “I do not mind sending work emails at night. In fact, I appreciate the flexibility that technology gives me. I live and work in China, and I flew to my home country Zimbabwe last year and surprised my mother for her 60th birthday. I could do that because I could carry my work with me. The work-life dichotomy has definitely been distorted in some industries and that is great. Just before this symposium, I met with a client. During that meeting – a very serious meeting – he answered a call from his son. They actually video chatted for a few minutes. I admired that. That is the kind of work-life balance model that works for me, too. It goes both ways: technology lets you bring your emails to your home, but also your family and friends to your work.“

“I appreciate the flexibility that technology gives me“

Katerina Lengold, vice president of business development at Astro Digital: “Until a couple of years ago, I had no such thing as balance: I was flying back and forth all the time. Now, there are actually hours booked in my calendar for spending time with my loved ones, playing with my dog and a nice dinner. If somebody is trying to schedule a call in that time, my calendar will say I  am busy. I spend that time entirely offline. When I started doing that, I became much happier. I think everybody deserves offline time without work interruptions. I will not bug a person on their vacation with requests. If I need something from them, I usually send a note. I try not to call, because that is very disruptive. Availability 24/7 is a dangerous commitment. It limits your capacity to enjoy other things in life.“

“Now, there are hours booked in my calendar to spending time with my loved ones.“
TED-talk by Nigel Marsh on how to make work-life-balance work

Susanne RuoffSwiss Post CEO: “I always spend at least one hour per day checking my phone, even on vacation. As a CEO, you need to stay connected. But you should not make Saturday morning calls to your employees over nothing. You need to have a basic level of respect. It is also important to clarify your expectations and rules for online communication. That is an extra task bosses have. It is wrong to expect employees to respond to everything within five minutes. When I worked at IBM Switzerland, we made a change from closed office to open office and we had the rule of softly knocking on somebody’s table as a way of asking for permission to disturb them. We did that in the ‘90s, but the principle is still valid today: you cannot disturb anybody at any time.“

“It is important to clarify your expectations and rules for online communication.“

Dan Wagner, CEO of Rezolve: “I am online for almost every minute of every hour of my day. Of course, I am not interacting with my devices all the time, but I am online. In the technology service business, that is normal. You need to be available. For example, if there is a technical issue that is preventing people from having access to the service we offer, I would be on it every five seconds and chase the person that I need down, and I would be furious with them if I do not get a response within a reasonable period. Some might have a view that work-life balance means spare hours should be protected, but I have a different view. I think that we are lucky. There are millions of people who have to work in far worse conditions. Worrying about getting a call on the weekend to disturb a bike ride is part of our success.“

“Worrying about getting a call on the weekend to disturb a bike ride is part of our success.“