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How Can Leaders Disrupt the "Always-On" Culture?

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

In today's climate of downsizing and constant change, many leaders feel pressured to always be available. This pressure is often pushed downward and felt across all levels of the organization. While this “always-on” mentality can produce short-term career advancement, the long-term effects can be more damaging, causing unsustainable levels of overwhelm, anxiety and burnout. It also encourages inequitable workplaces, pushing out talent whose circumstances do not allow them to be “always-on".

As a leader, how can you disrupt the “always-on” culture within your team or organization?

Set the example. If you are consistently working after hours, your team will feel the need to follow. After all, they look to their managers to demonstrate what success looks like. This is not to say to avoid it completely if it works for your schedule, however, avoid reaching out to your team with requests or comments during these hours. Push out the conversation until the next day or schedule your messages to send the next morning.

Agree on expectations and boundaries with your team and stick to them. Openly discuss the needs and expectations of the team and ways of getting the work done during working hours. Together, the team can agree on boundaries regarding reaching out “after-hours”. It is also helpful to agree on what “after-hours” means to your team. Then work hard to uphold these agreements and discuss what qualifies as an exception to the rule.

Praise the team for engaging during working hours. Acknowledge when the team is respecting these boundaries and working to meet the expectations discussed. Often, employees are praised when they work late and pull “all-nighters” but that only reinforces the “always-on” culture that leads to burnout and inequality in the workplace, pushing out those that don’t have the circumstances to pull “all-nighters”.

If you feel like your hands are tied since the pressure is coming from the top, experiment first and take note of people's reactions. Leaders are often pleasantly surprised by the results.

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