Some might say that while technology is designed to make our working experience more efficient, it has wreaked havoc on our work-life balance. It can be tough to separate your work and personal lives when it’s so easy for work to come home with you. This might be true, but only if you allow technology to disrupt your work-life balance. The fact is, thanks to technology, it’s never been easier to achieve work-life balance. It’s just a matter of using technology to your advantage.
If you’re of the mind that technology hinders the ability to leave work at work, here are a few ways that technology can actually help you achieve work-life balance.
1. Technology Helps Us Prioritize What Messages to Respond to
One of the biggest culprits of the work-life balance disruption is email. Emails can be sent at any point in the day. Oftentimes, we have the impulse to respond to them even if the workday is over.
Fortunately, technology can help us decipher what constitutes an “urgent” message that needs to be dealt with right away. Some email systems, like Microsoft Outlook, provide an option for senders to label how important the message is. This way, the recipient knows how quickly they need to respond. If the email is listed as “no response necessary” or doesn’t have an “urgent” distinction, it can wait until the next day.
There are no guarantees that every team member will remember to prioritize their message every time they send an email. If your company is concerned with work-life balance, however, you can program the email system so that notifications are required before the email is released.
2. Technology Lets Us Set a Hard End to the Workday
Just because the workday ends at 5:30 p.m. doesn’t mean people stop working. When there’s a big project to finish, people often stay a little longer. Not everyone wants to, or can, stay past closing time, but even if they leave, their inbox can still be flooded with emails throughout the evening.
Project management sites like Basecamp might not be able to solve the overall after-hours email problem, but they do have features that can help. Individuals or companies can set a “cut-off time” where they will no longer receive emails from the project management site. So if the company decides on a standard 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. schedule, this will be the only time emails, pushes, notifications, etc. would come from a site like Basecamp. After-hours notifications come through the next day, giving people the ability to create that work-life balance.
3. Technology Helps Us Spend Less Time in the Car
Even if you have relatively standard work hours, your work-life balance can still be disrupted with a long commute. If it takes you an hour each way to get from your house to work, that’s a two-hour extension to your day!
Fortunately, there are apps that can help decrease the time of your commute, even if it’s by just a few minutes. The sooner you’re out from behind the wheel, the sooner you can enjoy your evening. The GPS app Waze lets you know what route to take to avoid traffic and cut down your travel time.
If you take public transportation to get to work, the Moovit app will alert you about any delays or cancellations that might affect your normal routes. The app will also supply you with alternate buses or trains that get you to the office or back home as soon as possible.
4. Technology Helps Us Stop Wasting Time at Work
Managing your time effectively in the office can help you get more done, allowing you to leave the office on time. There are apps available that can track how much productive time you spend at your computer. This allows you to see which activities are a drain on your time so you can make adjustments. Rescue Time, for example, can break down what you did on your computer all day. The app then blocks sites that negatively affect your productivity. Achieving a healthy work-life balance starts with giving us more time outside the office. If you can get more done during office hours, you’ll be freed up to do just that.
5. Technology Helps Us Save Time in General
Even when we’re away from the office, we’re faced with everyday tasks that keep us from achieving a true work-life balance. Food shopping is one of those tasks, and it can be time-consuming. Services like Peapod and Instacart facilitate the delivery of groceries to your house so you don’t have to spend time driving, shopping, and waiting in line at the supermarket.
The same goes for Amazon; the site has almost anything you could find at a store: snack items, beverages, books, technology items, and more. You could do most of your holiday shopping from the palm of your hand. And if you don’t want to drive to the bank to deposit a check, many banks let you do so by simply taking a snapshot of the check with your smartphone.
6. Technology Lets Us Work From Home
This could be seen as a good or bad thing, depending on whom you talk to, but with email, video conferencing, and project management sites like Basecamp, working virtually has never been easier. If you can work from your house, you will instantly cut out a commute. Plus, you might be motivated to finish your work even sooner so you can enjoy more time at home.
Although certain advancements in technology can interfere with your downtime, when used properly, the right technology can help you achieve a work-life balance. These days, more and more companies are realizing the importance of life outside of work. Technology is playing a big role in allowing employees more freedom and flexibility so they can enjoy that time.