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Setting Work-Life Boundaries in a Hybrid Schedule

  • Remote and hybrid work options can erode employees’ work-life balance
  • Microsoft official shares how the company responded to a drop in work-life satisfaction
  • Steps such as reevaluating meetings, helping teams prioritize and focus their efforts, and making it easier for employees to take vacation time

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

The widespread shift to remote and hybrid scheduling has been a blessing and a curse for workers. This type of arrangement eliminates the dreaded commute and can offer better flexibility, but also makes it more difficult for employees to disconnect from their work.

Dawn Klinghoffer, head of people analytics at Microsoft, said there was a significant drop in employees’ satisfaction with work-life balance after Microsoft went fully digital during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the uptick in videoconferencing and chats led to a sense of permanent engagement with work tasks.

Klinghoffer said over-collaborating, a lack of uninterrupted focus, and skipping time off were major drivers of diminished work-life satisfaction. Employees were happier if they were blocking out time to focus on tasks, taking vacation time, and involved in less frequent collaborations including meetings, e-mails, and chats.

Klinghoffer said strategies to improve work-life balance include:

  • Having managers help teams prioritize their efforts to avoid overwork
  • Reevaluating how you hold meetings to decide if they can be cut or shorted, especially if employees are multitasking during these gatherings
  • Avoiding meetings on Mondays, which have the effect of spurring employees to put in hours over the weekend to prepare, and on Fridays to help employees wind down for the weekend
  • Building in breaks between meetings
  • Setting up focus time to allow teams to concentrate their efforts on a project or task without interruption
  • Using technological options to recognize work-life boundaries, such as setting up e-mails to go out on a delay so employees can unplug from their inbox in their off-hours
  • Making it easier for employees to use their vacation time, including a “buddy system” where one worker helps cover another worker’s tasks so they aren’t checking in at work during their time off

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