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nine to five

I’m in a managerial role at a company that is trying to impart better work-life balance among our staff. My team specifically has a culture of being on-call, sending e-mails in the evenings and messages during vacations and time off. We’ve already written explicit statements to encourage staff not to work off-hours, and I am demonstrating this myself, but I think the team is feeling pressure to perform when our industry is facing layoffs. How can we promote a true culture of disconnection?


Natasha Lakhani, vice-president of people and talent, Super, Toronto

Work-life balance is a tough challenge that practically every company struggles with. As you mentioned in your question, the root of the problem is shifting to a culture where everyone feels a sense of safety to truly disconnect without consequence. It needs to be influenced at the company level, the team/department level and the individual level in order to shift the culture.

For example, at the organization where I work, we do a company-wide recharge day about once a month where everyone is off so that no one feels obligated to work. It’s an effective strategy. Another example is at the department level. Create commitment statements where everyone is held accountable for the same standards and discuss them during one-on-one and group team meetings. Foster a safe environment to problem-solve solutions addressing why teams are doing off-hours work. For example, is there a process that needs to be improved? Is there a business partner we need to work with to change?

Another solution could be implementing a public recognition system within your team to demonstrate the behaviour you want to influence. Celebrating these wins and showing how the business was still supported will help encourage others that they can do the same, and trust there won’t be negative consequences to their actions.


Kadine Cooper, executive coach, consultant and facilitator, Toronto

Creating a genuine culture of disconnection in a team requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both the structural and psychological aspects of work. First, it is important to consider implementing concrete policies that reinforce the importance of work-life balance. This could involve setting clear boundaries for on-call responsibilities, limiting the expectation of after-hours communication and encouraging the use of vacation time without work-related interruptions. Because this may be a somewhat new initiative, I would recommend a fun rollout process of the policy to really drive this home to all employees.

Simultaneously, foster open communication within the team about the organization’s commitment to well-being. Share success stories of individuals who have benefited from disconnecting and emphasize the long-term advantages of a rested and rejuvenated work force. Consider organizing workshops or training sessions on stress management and time prioritization to equip employees with the tools they need to balance their personal and professional lives effectively.

Addressing the underlying concerns about job security is crucial. Reiterate the company’s commitment to employee well-being, even during challenging times. Explore alternative ways to boost team morale and motivation, such as recognition programs or skill development opportunities that enhance job security.

Finally, lead by example and celebrate instances where individuals successfully disconnect. Emphasize the value of quality work over constant availability. In times of industry uncertainty, demonstrating a commitment to work-life balance can not only improve team morale but also contribute to engaged employees, overall performance, productivity, profitability and resilience.

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