Turning off the office: HR too connected to work

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It used to be almost impossible to work from home, now it's almost expected. Today's technology has improved efficiency and made it easier to balance competing demands, but it's also become increasingly difficult to switch off.

HR can be especially bad because often requests for help come from employees who need support or assistance. It's hard to say no to people in need, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get some time off in peace.

A recent survey showed 83% of people check their emails daily when on vacation. Just 10% don't check it at all.

"While technology has undoubtedly improved our lives in the last 125 years, constant use of technology can add to the stress levels of an already overworked nation" said Dr. Russ Newman of the American Psychological Association. "What is important is to learn how to manage your stress at work and truly balance home and workplace demands even if that means switching off your BlackBerry this Labor Day."

What you can do:

  • Turn off and tune in.
    Set rules for yourself, such as turning off your mobile for part of the day, or establishing certain times when you return calls. Communicate those rules to others, so you can manage their expectations. Let technology be a tool that works for you, rather than the other way.

  • Keep a "To-Do" list.
    Worried that you'll forget something important? Constantly thinking through all the things you need to get done? Clear your head and put those thoughts on paper (or in an electronic task list) by creating a list of work and personal tasks and marking those with the highest priority. Not only will you reduce the risk of forgetting something, you'll also be better able to focus on the task at hand.

  • Ask for support.
    If your work is so important that you can't take a week away without checking in daily that shows something is wrong in the organization. Ask for extra support in managing that workload. Train others to take on standard tasks and give employees more autonomy for problem solving. You might still need to be in contact, but if you can limit your availability to every other day you'll have a more relaxing vacation and can return to work refreshed.

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