Many of us are stuck in the always-on mentality.
The always-on mentality in the workplace refers to the expectation or compulsion that we must be constantly available and responsive.
A few days ago, I heard from someone in a project: „I don’t even dare to leave my laptop anymore, and I always keep my status on green. Otherwise, I’m afraid people will think I’m not there. I am expected to be present for eight hours.“ This is not new to me, yet it sends me reeling every time. „Present“ just means „being here“, not being productive. Sometimes, just serving time that could be put to better use in other ways.
The „always-on“ brings with it a number of problems that can affect us in the long run:
- Burnout: Employees who are always on are at a high risk of burnout, as they struggle to disconnect from work and recharge. Constantly being available can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, negatively impacting mental health.
- Decreased Productivity: Paradoxically, the „always-on“ mentality can decrease productivity. Continuous work without breaks or downtime can reduce focus, creativity, and problem-solving abilities.
- Increased Stress: The constant pressure to be available and responsive can lead to heightened stress levels. Anxiety about missing out on essential tasks or being unable to meet expectations can harm mental well-being.
- Strained Relationships: The demands of an always-on job can strain personal relationships, as it may be challenging to fully engage with loved ones when we can’t switch off.
- Health Issues: The prolonged stress associated with the always-on mentality can lead to various health problems, including cardiovascular issues, sleep disturbances, and compromised immune function.
- Workplace Dissatisfaction: Employees who feel pressured to be always available may become dissatisfied with their jobs, leading to decreased morale, engagement, and turnover.
- Ineffectual Decision-Making: Continuously being on call can hinder an employee’s ability to make well-informed decisions, as they may need more time to assess and analyse complex issues.
- Creativity and Innovation Suppression: Creativity and innovation often require periods of relaxation and divergent thinking. The constant work-related stress associated with an always-on mentality can hinder these processes.
- Sustainability Concerns: Overworking employees in this manner is not sustainable in the long term, leading to high turnover rates and difficulties in retaining top talent.
How can we foster a healthier and more productive work environment and habits?
Solving the problem of the „always-on“ mentality is essential for promoting employee well-being and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Here are some solutions to help individuals and organisations address this issue:
- Analyse your business processes:
Define with the team which tasks can be solved asynchronously or synchronously. Switch step by step to more asynchronous work.
- Set Clear Boundaries:
Talk openly about working hours and expectations of availability. This requires a shift in thinking: it is not pure working hours but achieved work results that count for productivity. Promote a corporate culture that values the well-being of employees and recognises that productivity is not determined by the number of hours worked alone but by results achieved.
- Promote Time Management:
Teach time management techniques like prioritisation, task batching, and setting realistic goals to help employees maximise their work hours.
- Implement Technology Rules:
Encourage employees to use features like „Do Not Disturb“ mode on their devices to limit work-related notifications during non-working hours.
- Lead by Example:
Managers and leaders should model healthy work-life boundaries, demonstrating that it’s acceptable to disconnect from work when off the clock.
- Provide Mental Health Support:
Offer mental health resources and support to help employees cope with stress, anxiety, and burnout. Promote a stigma-free environment where seeking help is encouraged.
- Regular Check-Ins:
Managers should have regular check-ins with their team members to discuss workloads, challenges, and stressors. These conversations can help identify issues early and provide necessary support.
- Encourage Flexibility:
Embrace flexible work arrangements that allow employees to adjust their schedules to accommodate personal responsibilities and preferences better.
Use new technologies like AI to streamline workflows and reduce unnecessary tasks so your employees have more time. Provide training and support for employees to use productivity tools effectively.
Solving the always-on mentality problem requires a combination of individual actions and organisational support. Achieving a healthier work environment where employees can disconnect and recharge is essential for personal and corporate success. Some of it requires a shift in thinking, mindset, and other leadership skills. Remember that this process takes time and commitment, but the long-term benefits are worth it. I would be happy to support you and your team in this process. Just get in touch with me.