5 work-life balance strategies for the digital world

2nd November 2018

What we might think of as “personal” social media and messaging tools are increasingly finding their way into the workplace.

Not content with being an omnipresent force in your private life, Facebook is ramping up its plan to take over the office with Workplace by Facebook, a multi-purpose business platform combining voice calls, video chat, messaging and project planning. The company’s goal? Make Facebook indispensable whether you’re in the boardroom or on the beach.

Elsewhere, WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook) now has its own for-business incarnation, while some work tools are beginning to leach into our personal lives: Slack, originally designed for workplace collaboration, is now used by many for non-work purposes.

And it’s not just the applications and websites we use – our personal devices are now essential, not just for managing our personal relationships but for getting work done.

While the convergence of technologies into an essential handful is great news for the stock options of Silicon Valley execs, it presents the rest of us with a dilemma: how do we keep our work and personal lives separate when we increasingly use the same tools for both?

Keeping a wall between work-time you and personal-time you is critical, says life coach Alex Kingsmill. “Peak professional performance requires that periods of exertion be followed by opportunities for recovery,” Alex says.

“But if you're always connected to work you never really have this chance to replenish your reserves. And on the other hand, always being connected to work can diminish wellbeing, distancing you from meaningful connections with others.”

We’ve researched some strategies you can apply to create much-need space between work and play.

1. Manage multiple devices

As handy as it is to use your work-issued phone and laptop for personal use (especially when you can use the corporate data plan!), it also blurs the lines between work and play. Simple solution: keep a separate phone and laptop for personal use.

2. Split your work laptop in two

This will depend on whether you have administrator access to your work-issued computer, but you can split your hard drive into two separate partitions – one for work and one for personal use. It means you can install all of your fun personal stuff on one partition and all of the boring work things on the other.

3. Set up multiple profiles and accounts

This takes a bit of thought and effort – not to mention remembering more logins and passwords – but in lieu of keeping your hardware separate it’s an effective option. Here are some suggestions:

  • If your phone allows it, create an additional user account and switch between the two personas as needed.
  • Set up separate work and personal web browser profiles on your work laptop. This allows you to have two profiles with entirely different bookmarks and extensions. Consider even running two different browsers on your computer and phone, allocating one as work and the other as personal.
  • Avoid the temptation to add your personal Gmail to your work Outlook, and run separate apps on your devices for each email account.

4. Implement technology embargoes

If you’re a human adult with a smartphone there’s a very good chance you’ve made a promise like this to yourself: “I won’t check my work email once I walk through my front door.” It’s easy to think, but hard to do, especially when your device is constantly in your hand.

But if you have the self-discipline to enforce a technology embargo for yourself it’s the most effective way to leave your work worries at the office. Alex recommends using an app like Moment to monitor and limit your phone use.

5. Appoint a gatekeeper

Don’t have the willpower to self-regulate? Appoint a loved one as a technology gatekeeper. If you’re really struggling you can get them to install parental control apps to prevent you acting on your worst compulsions.

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