Working remotely is here to stay. This cat is out of the bag – no one who has had to make-due and adapt to perform can be told it’s not possible. They can be told it’s not ideal, but what is really ideal? Commuting? Real costs of office space? 

As we consider this new normal, what is the potential impact on our already fragile work-life balance? And how can technology help?  

Some say the primary benefit of working remotely is no time lost to commuting. But do we risk losing the valuable transition time between work and home? Others appreciate the ability to switch between both work and non-work-related tasks throughout the day. Yet could this blurring of boundaries add more stress and hinder productivity? Do we end up oversubscribing to more commitments than we can really deliver? 

If you’re struggling to find the right balance, technology can help if you embrace it. Some of these are defaults you can set and forget, especially regarding interruptions/notifications. 

  • The phones and watches we all wear to remind us of schedules and appointments can also hold us accountable for self-care. Schedule breaks or an afternoon walk and hold to those reminders. Use your calendar to your advantage. 
  • Delineate between truly urgent messages and the remaining mass of communication that can wait for a reply until you have time to focus. Turn off email notifications on your phone.  When was the last time someone left you an “urgent” email? They will send a text or call in most cases. 
  • Don’t allow social media, news or other apps to derail your progress. Set a time during the day for check-ins.  
  • Use the “Do Not Disturb” feature on your phone during at least a portion of the workday while still allowing important calls to come through.  
  • Put down your phone in the evening.  
  • Manage notification settings on your phone, tablet and laptop to minimize distractions. Keep these interruptions out of your head. 
  • Focus on making video conferencing a fuller, richer communication tool. 
  • Avoid “Zoom fatigue” and eliminate people’s concern about how they look on camera or how the background or activity behind them is detracting from their interactions.  
  • Provide a few company backgrounds or offer a short tutorial on making backgrounds and set themes to create and share – your favorite vacation spot, your dream home, your hobby. A few minutes at the start of a team call discussing why people set their own background as they did can be a great way to put people at ease and add more personal interaction to video communication.  
  • Invite people to introduce their kids or pets so they don’t have to worry about the inevitable interruptions during future video chats. 
  • For lengthy video sessions, consider creating lunch-chats. Services such as GrubHub Seamless coordinate timed deliveries to multiple homes in different cities and allow each team member to order from their own local restaurant. 
  • Make sure every call has a “moderator,” who summarizes the decisions made and also watches the time and agenda to show respect for everyone’s schedules. 

The loss of face-to-face time together means we need to find new ways to connect. Technology can certainly bridge that gap when you remember that it is only a tool – from behind webcams and computer screens, we must continue engaging in genuine, personal conversations while also respecting the work-life balance and downtime of all.