Finding Your Balance When You Unplug

Welcome to the new world of work, where 5:30 p.m. is far from the end of the day. It is a world in which smart-phones, iPads and laptop computers — devices that ostensibly enable us to work faster, more efficiently and more flexibly — have become 24/7 intravenous hookups to our jobs. Not only do we have difficulty maintaining personal boundaries with work because our lives and jobs are so enmeshed with technology, but we also feel intense pressure from our organizations to be “always on” and immediately responsive to calls and emails outside of normal working hours. Many of us can sympathize with this scenario. We are all are strapped at the hip with smartphones or tablets, and bombarded with email that never seems to stop filling our inboxes. Everyone needs to recognize that your device isn’t an evil master in and of itself. But it can run roughshod over you if you let it. The line between work and leisure has been blurring for years.

All work and no play does not create a good or optimal work/life balance. Because most multi-family rental industry professionals have a strong work ethic and a desire to stay caught up and “on-top of things” they become guilty of consistently extending ‘already’ long days into the evening and weekend by catching up on email and calls from home. And yet, this dedication to the job does not necessarily translate into increased productivity. Numerous studies have shown that psychological detachment from work during non-work time is important for employee health. If people are drained and getting burned out, they are not bringing their best selves to work every day. It has a huge effect on their creativity, their energy, their productivity and their ability to innovate.

Although using technology to increase communication, productivity and efficiency can produce results, it sometimes may be more productive to go “old-school” and occasionally unplug in on order to gain a new level of focus and energy. Studies consistently show that taking a break from being plugged into work 24/7 ultimately results in increased effectiveness when on the job. Employees who regularly utilize their downtime report greater satisfaction with their jobs, increased likelihood that they could envision a long-term career at their company and a better overall work/life balance. The fact is, work and personal life are very much intertwined, and we have to figure out how those two things can coexist in a way that doesn’t stress us out. People are going to have to learn new coping behaviors for this age of technology, so they don’t burn out. There is a need to also recognize that there is a saturation point; there are only so many hours in the day.”

It is important for employees to enjoy downtime – time with family, time to relax, time to have fun or time to just do nothing. Everyone needs to recharge their batteries or they burn out. Everybody in the rental industry recognizes that onsite staff must have the ability to communicate with and respond to residents 24/7, but unless there is a real after-hours emergency (fire, flood or crime), things can usually wait until the following day. When you are on call you should be on but when you are off you should really be off and unplugged. A real attainable goal of management companies should be to provide a workplace for employees to enjoy being able to demonstrate a commitment to a work/life balance, where it is acceptable to work hard and play hard. An emerging and winning management strategy within the apartment industry is the fostering of workplace environments that diminish or eliminate the belief that the only way to get ahead or be promoted is to be available and dedicated to the job 24/7 It is now a recognized fallacy that people who “turn-off” after normal work hours are not dedicated or focused and smart. Successful management teams are recognizing that the well-balanced member of their staff is both the happiest and most productive. There is no question that regular downtime and being “unplugged” leads to greater productivity – A WIN-WIN for both work and home.