Is Your Boss or Your Phone Ruining Your Dinner

Admit it. While your spouse mulls over appetizers at the local restaurant, you dive into your work email. Or maybe you’re really clever and take a “bathroom break.”

Either way, you work when you’re supposed to play. We all do. Believe me, that phone tempts me even as I manage my 10-year-old's Little League team.

Is there no longer a work-life balance? Maybe not, a report by enterprise collaboration provider Workfront discovered.

Balancing Act

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Workfront, based out of Lehi, Utah, surveyed 600 full-time employees working a typical 9-5 schedule (that exists still?) and found that 56 percent of workers feel that technology has “ruined the family dinner because employers and clients demand a response at any hour.”

So it’s your boss’ fault. Or is it technology in general? Workplace culture?

Scott Liewehr battles work-life balance every day. The president and CEO of New York City-based Digital Clarity is a father of three, a youth sports coach and a frequent work traveler.

His key metric in his daily battle? Bedtime. His children are 3, 6 and 7.

“My biggest challenge is that my work requires me to travel a lot, often 70 to 80 percent,” he told CMSWire. “So the big thing for me isn't about how many trips I go on, but rather about how many bedtimes I miss. Bedtimes is my key metric, and I'll do about anything to get home for one."

Liewehr may have to go to Boston and Chicago in a single week, but he'll leave for Boston on a Monday, make it home on Tuesday for a bedtime, then leave Wednesday morning and make it home Thursday.

"That's an 80 percent travel week with four days on the road," he said, "but only two bedtimes missed.”

Damn Tech

Workfront officials reported in their survey that two in five employees say that a bad work/life balance ruins the time spent with family and friends. They also found 60 percent of employees believe bad bosses (e.g., demanding, overbearing, mean) can have a negative impact on work/life balance. And more than 50 percent of employees think technology has ruined the modern family dinner because employers/clients demand responses at any hour.

“We were surprised at just how much work technology had caused work to intrude on home life,” said Joe Staples, chief marketing officer for Workfront. “Most of us answer the occasional work email or text a team member after hours, but this report gave us a bird’s-eye view of the problem, and it is so much bigger than we expected.”

Fifty-seven percent of respondents blamed work texts and emails -- and of course, the mobile devices that carry them -- for ruining the family dinner.

“Then, interestingly, we saw this growing acceptance of the practice,” Staples said, “where 40 percent say it’s now OK to answer work emails during family meals.”

Is Your Boss Mean?

Technology may urge us to be online at all times. You don’t think I’m emailing in the coffee drive-through? But what about human influences? Is your boss the reason you’re checking email at the family dinner table?

“We all know that few things can affect your satisfaction or dissatisfaction at work like your boss,” Staples told CMSWire. Issues like overtime and inflexible work schedules can also disrupt the work-life pendulum.

“In today’s knowledge economy,” Staples said, “workers are demanding more control over their time. This report establishes once again that these knowledge workers perform much better when they aren’t subject to regular overtime and when they have the tools to work where and when they need to.”

What Do You Say, Joe?

How does Joe Staples handle his own work-life existence. He’s the CMO of a software company with 550 employees.

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His rule -- when he’s home, he’s home.

“When I walk through the door, I switch into family mode,” Staples said. “I always felt it was important that my wife and kids got a clear message that, after I left the office, they got my attention. After the kids go to bed, I’ll look at my calendar for the next day and check and reply to email. That doesn’t take more than 20 minutes. I’m caught up and my family still feels that they got my attention.”

Liewehr, meanwhile, coaches two of his boys' baseball teams and two of their soccer teams. Weekends and nights are pretty stacked.

He travels during the week rather than weekends. He only travels weekends for work about once or twice per year.

“I'd rather leave super early on Monday than spend any part of Sunday away from my family,” Liewehr said. “Or, if I do have to leave Sunday, I'll book a very late night flight so that I can still do the bedtime routine. That's a convenience of living in New York, though. I wish I could say that I turn my device off on the weekends, but I actually don't. That said, I do leave the phone in the car when we go to dinner at a restaurant so that I can avoid the temptation.”

Leaders Must Lead

So if you’re company wants to have its employees feel “balanced,” it's on the managers. They must set the tone, Staples said.

“If workers see an angry email from their boss after hours demanding an immediate response, they will mistake that for team expectations and then mimic that behavior to ill effect,” he said. “On the other hand, if they see that emails from the boss stop at 5:30 p.m. sharp, they will also emulate that behavior.”

As for the temptation to work after-hours, always err on the side of your “outside-of-work” needs, Staples told CMSWire.

The work will get done. The business will be fine. Your job will be fine.

“Never sacrifice what matters most in order to meet work demands,” Staples said. “That said, get organized. Be flexible. Be willing to burn the midnight oil occasionally to hit a deadline; and be good at what you do. I’ve found that to be a formula for creating a great work-life balance.”

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by tompagenet.