Do “Flexible” Work Environments Result in Us Being Always On?
Last week, OpenView hosted a Women in Tech panel event featuring Rapid7 CMO Carol Meyers, FA Technology Ventures General Partner Laura Rippy, and Fidelity Investment’s Kristen Robinson Darcy. It was a great event that brought women from the tech community together for some great advice and networking. (Thank you to OpenView’s Salima Ladha for coordinating.)
During this event a question was asked about flexibility. Both women and men appreciate a flexible work environment (working from home, flexible hours, etc.) but the question was, how do you prevent that from creating a culture of working 24/7/365? If one person is working at 10pm on a Friday and he or she emails you, do you respond?
The response from the panel was terrific, and I wanted to share some of their tips as well as some of my own on how to maintain balance in an environment where our work computers come home with us and we receive emails right in the palm of our hands.
4 Tips To Stay Balanced in This Highly Connected World
1) Test the Boundaries
Carol Meyers (on the Board of Advisors at several tech companies, including OpenView portfolio company Central Desktop) suggested testing the expectations of your coworkers and managers. If they email you on a Friday night, don’t answer until Monday. See what their reaction is and if they expected you to respond earlier. Chances are, they won’t even bat an eye.
2) Set Expectations
Kristen Robinson Darcy underscored the importance of setting expectations (and limits) around what your working hours would be — and sticking to them. If you are constantly answering emails and working into the night and weekends, then it won’t be long before that is what is expected of you.
It all comes down to setting the precedent of when you can and when you shouldn’t be expected to be “on the clock”.
3) Work When You Can and Expect the Same from Others
Laura Rippy (Chairman of the Board at OpenView portfolio company Zmags) mentioned that she will work in the hours that she can (including nights and weekends if needed), but if she sends an email on Saturday morning because something was on her mind, she is fine with waiting until Monday for a response.
4) Don’t Worry About It
My own advice would be to remember that you are probably more worried about responding to a particular email or getting a particular report done on Saturday afternoon than anyone else is. I typically avoid looking at my work email on nights or weekends unless I plan on sitting down and getting work done. Always feeling like every email needs a response right away will drive you crazy and result in you losing the work/life balance everyone needs.
Obviously, there are always extenuating circumstances, and I am not suggesting that you ignore urgent items or lose productivity. However, everyone needs to get away from work once in a while.
What tips do you have for maintaining a healthy work/life balance in or outside a flexible working environment?