Technology helped to normalised the lack of boundaries in our lives. We are attached to our phones. With the lockdowns, office closures and more limited social lives have added to the norm.

  • A global study shows that the average daily working time increased by 30 minutes a day in 2020.
  • A UK poll found that more than 30% of remote workers find it harder to switch off from work during the pandemic.
  • A similar proportion of people are working more unpaid hours.

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Why it’s so hard to put boundaries on our time

bbc.com

Technological convergence, where every messaging application is available on every device, has created more freedom and flexibility around where and when we work. But it has also blurred the boundaries for knowledge workers.

This situation became more exaggerated as millions of people began working from home daily. Digitalisation enabled us to tackle work quicker and with a more constant flow of new tasks and information. It means work is never 'done.'

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With companies that have an always-on culture, staff may be concerned about speaking up in case of potential trouble. Others are concerned about being viewed as less hard-working.

Some businesses and national governments are starting to look at the challenges of companies that are 'always on' with specific policies, such as banning emails out-of-hours or encouraging staff to turn off notifications at weekends.

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How to think about work

The way we approach boundaries has to do with how we think as individuals.

  • Ask questions. Some may feel guilty for logging off and embracing free time. Instead, we should ask ourselves why we're feeling guilty and who exactly is pushing us to react? We may find that we make ourselves work endlessly.
  • Stay with the feeling of guilt. Even if your colleagues respond to messages late at night, experiment and see what happens if you only answer in the morning.

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