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  • Alexis Hultine

Combat Employee Exhaustion With Digital Boundary Setting

You’ve probably had or been part of many discussions about where your team will work, but have you spoken about when they’ll work? Time is the second dimension of hybrid work flexibility and it is critical for managers and team leaders to set new working norms. If your company is offering any combination of remote work and/or flexibility of working atypical hours, your employees are vulnerable to exhaustion and burnout.

As we’ve experienced in the pandemic, without defined limits, work flexibility can devolve into anywhere, all the time. According to the Work Trend Index survey conducted by Edelman Data x Intelligence surveying over 31,092 full-time employed or self-employed workers across 31 markets:

54% employees reported feeling overworked
39% employees reported feeling exhausted

Employee exhaustion is a reality managers and leaders can’t afford to ignore. As many organizations settle on hybrid, we know partial remote work is here to stay. When employees work remotely, there is no physical separation of work and personal daily rituals. For example, a commute, which typically signals a transition, no longer exists. Employees are prone to work-life imbalance and managers must help their team purposefully design their workday.

For each individual, start by defining the ‘on’ hours. Help them review if their preferred working time provides sufficient overlap to connect with the rest of the team, outside vendors, etc. Then, define the ‘off’ hours. There are two layers to “off” hours. The first layer is daily unavailability, these are known times during the day that the employee is offline. It could be early mornings on the west coast, daily dinner with the family, dog walks, a workout class, or caregiving time for an elderly parent. The second layer is vacation and personal time unavailability. Anywhere, anytime has also encroached on our ability to take real-time off. Everyone knows the benefits of disconnecting, but it is so difficult to do when our work can be mobile and we are accessible.

At Digital By Design, we teach leaders to embed well-being boundaries into hybrid work and empower employees with tech settings to reinforce it. Here are our five most popular tips:

  1. Make your active working hours visible on your calendar so teams working across time zones don’t unintentionally send you a 5 am invite

  2. Silence notifications during periods of daily unavailability even if you still have your phone on you so you can truly disconnect and be present

  3. Manage availability indicators on chat to set expectations on how quickly to expect a response

  4. Use delayed send on weekends and late nights (especially critical for managers) to avoid an unnecessary chain of responses when you’re just clearing out tasks at your preferred time to work.

  5. Utilize the Out of Office messages to let people know that you’re unavailable and to grant yourself the grace to not respond while you’re out.

Alexis Hultine is the principal of Digital By Design, a digital strategy and solutions consulting group partnering with senior leaders who value talent and are deliberately designing the Future of Work.


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