Even after almost two years of the global outbreak of the COVID pandemic, it is still difficult for people to maintain a work-life balance. The overuse of technology due to remote working or a hybrid setup has led to digital exhaustion and loss of creativity.

A Microsoft study, published in the Harvard Business Review, found that factors such as constant collaboration, lack of concentration time, vacations and unused absences add to employee misery.

The company’s research in this area found that employee satisfaction with work-life balance fell 13 percentage points between April and November 2020. Highlighting a similar concern, another set of data collected between October and November 2020 showed that 81% of employees were dissatisfied. and 42% did not feel as productive as before the COVID pandemic.

Therefore, in an effort to help employees, the tech giant has compiled data to get to the root. According to the results, the time spent in meetings more than doubled, and the average person sent 42% more chats after work hours. The incessant video calls, emails and chats impacted the mental well-being of employees.

Employees who attended 25% fewer meetings and spent six hours less collaborating compared to disgruntled employees were more satisfied with their work-life balance.

In addition, employees who were most satisfied with their work-life balance sent 36% fewer emails after work hours and 29% fewer emails overall.

Another crucial factor affecting employees’ perceptions of a work-life balance has been a significant decrease in vacation time. Microsoft’s study found that the average number of vacations recorded by its U.S.-based employees fell to 83%.

How to improve work-life balance

Breaks between meetings: Based on its brain research findings, Microsoft offered employee breaks between meetings. Company research has shown that a 5-10 minute buffer between collaborations not only reduces employee stress levels, but also allows for better focus and engagement.

Free weekends: The next crucial step towards improving the work-life balance was to avoid key meetings on Monday mornings and Friday evenings. An early Monday meeting was found to keep employees under pressure on the weekends. Likewise, Friday night meetings denounce employees before they disconnect for the weekend.

Shorter meetings: Keeping meetings short and to the point was another important step the company took to resolve employee issues, as lengthy online chats would lead to low engagement and increased stress. The study found that employees frequently multitask in meetings that they find irrelevant or lack interest or commitment.

No business emails outside of office hours: Microsoft officials have also stopped sending after-hours work emails to employees. In fact, employees have been encouraged to turn off notifications to take the pressure off of checking email and after-hours chats.

Encourage periods of absence from work: Microsoft has offered five days of wellness leave to its employees around the world in addition to their regularly allocated vacation. This measure was intended to encourage employees to take more time off work.

In large part, the idea is to allow employees to be able to say “no” to tasks that are not “mission critical”. This freedom gives them a better sense of work-life balance. The study asks managers to realize that there will always be work on the table and that’s okay.

The key lesson from all of this was telling managers to put their team members first to improve their work-life balance. To truly combat this digital overload and keep workloads sustainable, the status quo cannot last long. A few small steps to improve work-life balance would bring stability even in the face of chaos.

(Edited by : Thomas abraham)