Smartphone apps

Many people are unwilling slaves to their mobile phones, checking texts the minute they wake up and worrying if they don’t respond immediately to voice messages or emails, says Allyson Munarriz from Another Number. It’s a trend that has grown with our ‘always-on’ lifestyles, so it’s no wonder that in research conducted recently, 60 per cent of British workers said they don’t have a good work-life balance.

Instead of connectivity being a pleasure, a way to enjoy social media or to communicate with valued friends and family, the efficiency of today’s mobile apps and features has become an intrinsic part of the way we do business. It’s challenging to separate the two.

We no longer need to be sitting at a desk, let alone in an office, in order to do a full day’s work. With a mobile in hand we can be called, emailed, texted, or instant messaged whether we’re on a train, at home, or worse, on a beach relaxing.

And here is the crux of the problem. As many of us prepare to jet off over the next few weeks on our summer holidays, a study by the Institute of Leadership and Management has revealed that a third of people work while they are away to try and stay ahead of their heavy workloads. Technology may well be the great enabler, but it also makes it very hard to switch off and actually have a complete break.

The result is that holidays are no longer serving their purpose and British employees are going back to work feeling even more stressed than before they left.

Recovering is important

Part of the issue is that our private and business lives have become too closely aligned and much of this is to do with how we use our mobile phones. We can’t physically leave the office behind if we are carrying it in a pocket or a handbag. The temptation to respond to calls or messages, even ‘out of hours’ is difficult to resist – no-one wants to appear to be offline or to miss an important business opportunity.

But, as is the way, there are technology solutions available to solve this technology challenge. These are in the form of apps that allow us to take control of our calls and messages without having to resort to carrying a second phone around.

These apps have carefully considered how our behaviour works. Personalised voice messages, for example, can be set to provide clear details about when we are available, and when the caller can expect to receive an answer to their query. This sets clear expectations. And, instead of rushing to listen to voicemail messages following a meeting, these can be automatically transcribed into texts, not only saving time, but making it easier to respond quickly or save until later.

Another bonus is that a second number can be used on a mobile phone without the need for an additional SIM card. This means that calls to that number can easily be identified as professional not personal, and the number used for work can be switched off without disconnecting from personal calls or messages, allowing us to relax.

Of course, an app can only do so much. It is also important to change unhealthy habits, such as constantly checking emails outside office hours. If it’s really necessary to reinforce availability, some professionals include their working hours as part of their email signature – at least then there is no ambiguity, expectations are managed and treated professionally, and a colleague will not be frustrated by making numerous calls to which they receive no answer.

These clever apps offer simple solutions to help us separate our work and our personal lives where our mobile phones are concerned, but perhaps they can also pave the way for bigger changes that can give us back a more healthy work-life balance.

Allyson Munarriz is Head of Marketing at Another Number