tips for work-life balance


How many people do you know that completely disconnect from work over the summer… or ever?

I receive countless bounce backs from people when they are out of the office and “have limited access to email,” and yet I still get a response back from them that same day!

Our society has become chronically unable to disconnect, and it’s having an extremely negative impact on our health and our productivity at work.

From the countless articles and blogs on the negative health effects of not disconnecting, here are a few important points: 

  • A 2014 UBC Study by Dunn & Kushlev reports that checking emails frequently causes, among other issues, more stress. More cortisol is released into our systems which can interfere with memory and lower immunity.
  • A 2015 HBR Blog by Gino & Statts indicates that the cognitive resources that we need to control our behaviour, desires, and emotions get depleted with overwork and need to be refilled.
  • Ron Friedman, author of “The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace” (2015), says the lower our energy, the more we misread our colleagues and the more apt we are to respond negatively.

Here are some ideas on how you can disconnect from work the next time you take vacation time.

Did you really disconnect from work over the summer? 

Taking downtime and really disconnecting probably sounds like common sense, but from what I see around me, it is not common practice. 

Most people I know have their phones with them on vacation. Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder states that people with smartphones check them, on average, every 6.5 minutes, which computes to 150 times/day

A decision to disconnect on vacation may take a lot of planning. The last thing you want is to come back from a refreshing vacation and have to sift through 3000+ messages. 

Dr. Linda Duxbury, who has been researching work-life balance across Canada for the past 20 years, models a way to deal with this. 

When she is away, her bounce-back message alerts people to her return date and asks them to email her again after that time if it’s important, deleting the incoming message. 

How will you disconnect and take a break? 

Whether it’s in the remaining days of this summer or any other time of year, keep some reminders handy to help keep you balanced. 

Friedman suggests some small changes to behaviour to make disconnecting easier. Instead of trying to change everything at once, find one small change you can implement right away and move from there. 

He gives the examples of leaving your phone in another room when you get home from work or finding an enjoyable activity that you can partake in that takes concentration and keeps you from using your phones – such as a sport or a course.

Dunn & Kushlev suggest not just evening limits but limiting yourself throughout the day to only checking email at three specified times. 

This is because checking email still causes a surge of cortisol, but then it activates a relaxation response in between.

Adjusting the times you answer your email is one of the most simple but powerful tips for balancing your energy during the day! 

Prepping for Your Next Vacation  

To prepare for a big trip I took a few years ago, I purposely left my iPhone at home when I was out, just to practice not having it. 

It seems crazy, but it’s amazing how reliant we become on these devices. I’ve moved to check my emails only three times per day. I’ve started plugging my phone in at night in another room other than the bedroom. 

Baby steps…

How to Foster Work-Life Balance on Vacation and Beyond 

Taking a disconnected vacation is important, but it’s also about what happens in-between those complete breaks from work when it comes to work-life balance. 

There are so many things that you do for yourself and your teams that will help you find more balance — here are a few suggestions: 

Find Balance and Create a Better Workplace Today

What guidelines can you set up around taking breaks, workload, work hours, and disconnection from work to help your team be more resilient and effective? How can you support each other to stick with your new guidelines?

If you need help fostering a more positive and productive workplace, that happens to be my specialty! Give me a call or email, and we’ll get to talking.

We can build healthier workplaces together…although if I am on vacation, I ask for a little patience until I return! 🙂 

Follow this blog for bi-weekly ideas to create your “better place to work” and order my book, A Better Place To Work: Daily Practices That Transform Culture.

If you’re interested in working together, I’d love to chat. So send me a message to get started!

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Deborah Connors

Deborah Connors teaches leaders to radically shift culture so that people can flourish. She is an engaging speaker, storyteller, author and coach.

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