work call on wedding day

Few would deny that technology has been more friend than foe of productivity. 

Workers today have the ability to sign on from wherever they want, whenever they want, which creates unparalleled flexibility. 

Worldwide, 50 percent of employees report they now work remotely at least a few times a week. These individuals value the ability to balance both productivity and quality of life within their remote environment. 

Always On Pushes Workers to the Edge

Driven in part by millennials entering the workforce, the “always on” work trend prevails as the standard among modern workers. But with renewed discussions about finding work-life balance, it's clear that employees find it hard to escape the demands of work. 

Ironically, employees increasingly feel pressured to be always available because of the very technology that has provided them with more flexibility. Fuze conducted a survey that revealed just how much pressure employees feel with respect to this 24/7 accessibility. 

Eighty-two percent of employees have responded to work-related emails while on vacation and 87 percent of employees deem it acceptable to call or text coworkers and clients regarding work-related matters outside the standard work hours. 

Because work is getting more demanding and multifaceted, and with many of us now working with global teams, worker burnout is becoming a top concern.  

Is This the 'New Norm'?

Given the number of mobile devices at our fingertips, it’s not surprising that the majority of employees feel there is a general acceptance of handling work-related matters outside of the office. 

This is the new norm of the digital age, but how can managers help teams sidestep this perception and avoid burnout? 

Here are some practical ways to give employees the autonomy they demand and the control they want over their schedules:

Set the Tone From the Top

Businesses should start by investing in the professional development of its talent. Groom employees to be comfortable taking initiative, work well in teams and have accountability for results. 

Yet even with great, motivated employees, the company is still responsible for creating environments that encourage teams to establish operating rhythms based on trust and accountability between one another and to the goals of the group. 

Set the tone from the top down. Leaders should encourage team members to communicate with one another in setting expectations around personal and professional boundaries as it relates to working hours or availability during time off. Introduce activities that help teams establish rapport, promote wellbeing, offer personal development and resilience training.  

Leaders should give consistent encouragement to people to work in ways they find most productive, whether that is working from home on occasion, taking walks throughout the day or creating quiet spaces for them to focus with few disruptions.

Use Tech to Your Advantage

Technology can effectively boost work productivity, but large numbers of digital communication streams can leave teams feeling overwhelmed. Unifying your communication tools makes connecting with colleagues and clients friction-free while supporting their ability to stay connected and effective on their own terms. 

Businesses have a number of great tools out there to choose from, but they should adopt an employee-first strategy that addresses worker's priorities and preferences. Bring them into the decision process early and often. Ask them truly what they need. This sets the entire organization up for success from the beginning.

Balance a High-Intensity Workplace by Fostering Teamwork

High-intensity workplaces can lead to employee burnout. Fostering core values of collaboration and teamwork is a key way to avoid overworking. 

Start by assembling your team thoughtfully. Recruit a strong group of team players who bring different skill sets, strengths and approaches to their work. Not everyone needs to work the same way. The goal is to find team members who are complementary, supportive and enable one another to do their best work. 

Once the team members are in place, give them autonomy and control to set their own deadlines and priorities with the proper oversight. This helps steer the focus away from process-oriented tasks and toward quality of output. 

Last but not least, acknowledge the importance of pursuing passions outside of work. By encouraging employees to nurture interests in their personal life, you’re also opening the door to greater creativity at work.

Put Out the Fire, Disconnect

We can no longer keep pace with the advances in communications tools and technologies. As workplace and lifestyle trends evolve, too, we are witnessing a future workforce defined more by mobility and productivity than ever before. 

Avoid burnout by tapping into resources wisely, building teams thoughtfully, fostering a culture of teamwork and encouraging passions inside and outside the workplace. As part of that, develop and implement a “connectivity” policy to set expectations and reinforce brand values. 

With rules in place, managers should lead by example and reinforce behaviors that respect workers’ freedom to disconnect. With the right ingredients, you are well on your way toward extinguishing burnout in your organization.