working from home

Thank Technology for Work-Life Integration, Not Balance

“There are only 940 Saturdays between a child’s birth and her leaving for college.” 
                                                    —Dr. Harley Rotbart, author of No Regrets Parenting

When my youngest daughter was born, I made the decision to work part time. This is how work-life balance went: I worked three days a week at the office, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The other two days I spent at home with my daughters. No work, no emails and no phone calls. It was simple. It was balanced.

We applaud technology for enabling us to work from home, but our hours have changed from an eight-hour day to being on call 24/5, if not 24/7. Not only can we work from home, but from the soccer pitch, at the dinner table and on the golf course. Can you say that technology has streamlined your workload so that you can maintain a work-life balance? Or, have technology and other factors led you to believe that work-life balance would be easier to manage if life didn’t get in the way?

Much of my time is spent helping firms maximize operations, processes and technology at all organizational levels. The desire to maintain balance begins on a personal level and must work its way to the professional level. To put this in better perspective, here are some ways technology has transformed work-life balance into work-life integration:

  • The cloud is the ultimate virtual office. Moving to cloud-based technology has made life easier outside the physical office. We can take care of personal or family needs during the day while still getting our tasks done. However, some people take advantage of cloud-based technology by working from anywhere, all the time. Before logging into your technology at 9 p.m., ask yourself if it is out of necessity or habit?
  • Sunday night is the new Monday morning. Technology enabled us to redefine Sunday evenings as pre-Mondays. Spending a few minutes reviewing the upcoming week’s calendar won’t hurt a relaxing Sunday night. The problem is when those few minutes turn into several hours of emails and other business activities. An advisor mentioned that he likes to send emails on Sunday nights to get in front of staff and clients first thing Monday morning. I agree that there are situations that require our attention at 6 a.m. Monday, but is every situation an emergency? Imagine your staff waking up on Monday morning only to find several emails from you with the subject “Respond ASAP”.
  • Social media made DIY marketing 24/7 easier. Instead of outsourcing your marketing tasks, you find it easier to use social media technology as your sole marketing tool. What used to be personal time is now time spent writing blogs, looking for articles to post, or finding prospects on social media platforms. While it is common and acceptable to turn to social media for marketing activities, what percentage of your day is filled with these tasks?
  • Confusing work-life balance with work-life anxiety. With all of the money spent on technology and streamlined work-flow processes to create efficiencies, you still can’t log off. You need to check your emails, analyze your firm’s AUM, or read up on all of the wealth management topics. Count how many blogs/articles/white papers you read on robo advisors, DOL and the latest wealth management news on your device in the last week.

Here are a few tips to reverse the work-life integration trend and bring life back to the balance:

  • Awareness is the first step. We have all said, or thought, the expression "Where did the time go?" Whether through Outlook or the time-tracking apps available, it should be easy to understand how your days are spent. You can then begin the process of balancing what is necessary for work with what is important in life.
  • Exercise those prioritization and delegation skills. If you attend a seminar on how DOL impacts your industry from an experienced resource, you won’t need to read 82 DOL articles on your device. Delegate the responsibility to someone in your firm to keep up on DOL news and report any impact on your firm. The same goes for technology, compliance, client service trends and other areas that you are not be expected to be on top of every minute of every day. Determine which and how many sources of news provide you with true value and then focus your efforts on those.
  • Stick to the plan. It’s one thing to incorporate new trends and ideas into your strategic plan; it’s another to outright change your business model every time a new trend appears. I’ve said many times that the grass isn’t greener on the other side—it’s a different shade. Your business model has gotten you this far on the road to success. Make changes thoughtfully and gradually.
  • Implement an infrastructure to support the plan. Your people, processes and technology can be set up to achieve your goals or steer you in different directions. Effectively managing all areas will provide you with a high confidence level that your firm is operating smoothly, even while you are on vacation. If necessary, pick a day and time to check in. Good staff combined with the right technology will ensure all items are taken care of. 

It’s time to log off.

Sue Glover is president of Susan Glover & Associates, a technology and operations consultancy firm for independent financial advisory and wealth management practices.

This article originally appeared on the Susan Glover blog.

TAGS: Technology
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