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Work and wellness: let's get real

Edited
Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jun 10, 2022

ICYMI, the Confluence team just launched a new Work and wellness series! 🎉

I (somewhat selfishly) had the idea to kick things off with a discussion post. Whether it was a wakeup call that I needed to set better boundaries or the realization that I wasn’t alone in experiencing burnout, I’ve found much of the progress I’ve made in my own journey toward better work-life integration has started with candid conversations!

So, let’s get real! I want to hear from you — what’s something you struggle with in balancing work and life? Do you have a tip, trick, or strategy that’s helped (Confluence-related or otherwise)?

15 comments

I’ll go first 🙋‍♀️

Pre-March 2020 I was not exactly killing the “setting (and enforcing) boundaries on my time” game. I felt like I needed to be available to my coworkers anytime someone reached out — which meant fielding Slack messages, emails, or phone calls when they came in — including weekends and after hours. 🤪 I was majorly stressed out and fast-approaching burnout — and then seemingly overnight my home became my office. Reader, it did not bode well for my work or wellness.

Whereas in “before times” I had the physical transition of my daily commute to set some natural boundaries between my work and my life outside work, suddenly I was spending 24 hours a day in my workspace — and it felt nearly impossible to delineate the two. I was consistently working long hours and even when I wasn’t “working”, I felt like I should be. I’d sit on the couch for hours at night with my laptop open, half-working and half watching TV or wine-and-puzzling, and it 100% sucked. I wasn’t letting myself ever fully unplug from work. Predictably, it led to major burnout.

I’m happy to report that 2+ years later, I have found a much better balance between work and life — and I’m happier and healthier in and out of my job! Part of this can be chalked up to the learning curve of remote/hybrid work, part to my own (ongoing) work to strike a better balance, and a large part to joining a team & company with a culture that emphasizes the holistic health and wellbeing of employees. I still have plenty of room for growth, but being a part of a team that effectively collaborates async and normalizes flexibility for employees has made a world of difference.

Some other things that have helped me?

  • Deleting work email + the Slack app from my phone
  • Creating a “starting work” and “ending work” routine when wfh to replace the transition of commuting
  • Making a coverage plan in Confluence when going OOO (proud to say I took my first fully unplugged vacation earlier this year thanks to this!)
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Srinatha T Atlassian Team Jun 12, 2022

@Meg Bailey  Thanks for sharing.

Removing the work email and slack app from phone has actually helped me too. 

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jun 13, 2022

Yes, so much less tempting to "just reply to one thing" when you have to log on to your work computer! 

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Srinatha T Atlassian Team Jun 12, 2022

Things that have helped me are

1. I keep 500ML water bottle with me. Since the bottle gets over soon, I get up from my seat go and grab another 500ML . I feel these small breaks are really necessary for good health and reminds me that i stay with family members. :) 

2. When i am stressed out or things are difficult at work. I simply get up from my chair, go to my toddler and cuddle him , play with him. The cute smile on his face make me forget everything in the world. 

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jun 13, 2022

The water bottle is a great idea, I'll have to try that! Win-win with drinking more water AND taking more breaks. And nothing better than a cute toddler to remind you what really matters! 💙

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Charlie Misonne Community Leader Aug 03, 2022

I try to get a coffee or a single glass of water regulary. Having a whole bottle give me too much time before I get thirsty :-)

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Aug 03, 2022

Oooo good tip @Charlie Misonne! I keep telling myself I need to buy a bigger water bottle to drink from throughout the day but now I have a new perspective... I'm just incentivizing myself to stand up and leave my desk more frequently for refills! 

G subramanyam Community Leader Jun 14, 2022

Hi @Meg Bailey you started out with a bang and this entire concept is a killer. I'm loving it.

You: What’s something you struggle with in balancing work and life?

Me: I struggle to maintain my fitness streak in the busy work/life.

 

You: Do you have a tip, trick, or strategy that’s helped (Confluence-related or otherwise)?

Me: Well in fact 2 approaches I follow:

a) I create weekly task(s) in my personal Jira board and document the steps I should follow in that week in personal Confluence site. So, every day I start with looking my task and steps and specific time for my jogging.

b) I divide my 24 hours into 3 parts: 10 hours work+7 hours sleep+7 hours with family.

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jun 14, 2022

Thanks for sharing, @G subramanyam! Love this use case for Jira + Confluence! I need to try it out but already see a couple major benefits: 

  • Creating Jira tasks for things you want to make time for (like going for a run!) helps prioritize those items. Especially when things are busy, it can be easy to neglect the things we do for ourselves in favor of the things we do for other people (work-related or otherwise), so I love that this strategy helps mitigate that! 
  • Great approach to break the larger task (in Jira) down into smaller steps (in Confluence). In my experience, breaking tasks down into bite-sized steps makes me so much more likely to follow through because it feels more tangible and less daunting! 
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Kevin Tuei Community Leader Jun 19, 2022

Great concept here @Meg Bailey , I couldn't help but jump right into the ship. Learning a lot from you and others on work and wellness.

 

Work-life balance struggle is real. Sometimes you feel you have everything under control but there is always a way in which the work "wolf" gets all wild on you. Here are some of the things that get wild on me and my successful approaches to tame them. 

 

It's usually difficult to plan for  impromptu work tasks/meetings coming in while I still have other items on my plate so I usually ensure I prioritize tasks and help colleagues meet-less by collaborating on Confluence in what I like calling asynchronous "meeting" while working. This helps me have time for the current tasks without having to send apologies for full-time meeting.

 

Also for the tasks I usually have, they can be daunting and the feeling of jumping from one unfinished task to another without ever completing them is a wild that gets real. Thanks to Trello, I am able to set up daily tasks on cards which I place on the standard lists To Do, Doing and Done, I usually call this board the To Finish List. Just to ensure that I know the end goal is to complete tasks. 

 

I also ensure I treat personal life activities as seriously as I would do the work tasks. From fitness to time with family, I also create a routine and share with self a blog of my Personal Journal Confluence Space. 

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jun 21, 2022

This sounds like a great system! Especially love the idea of using Trello to track daily tasks. I've used Trello to organize my work to-do lists before but think my mistake was making each task/card way too high-level – so it was easy to get trapped in that feeling of never "truly" completing things. I'm going to follow your lead and try again but with tasks that are much more bite-sized (rather than a whole quarter-long project) so I can get the satisfaction of moving tasks to the "Done" list. (Pro-tip in case you don't already know: add one of these 🎉 🎊 🎇 🎆 ✨ 👖 emojis to the title of your Trello list and when you move cards to that list it'll do a little celebration - SO satisfying!)

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Dave Liao Community Leader Jun 22, 2022

🗓 Scheduling meal and coffee breaks. It's crazy to say that that's necessary, but a classic adage is

what doesn't get scheduled doesn't get done

Aside from the above, I rely on page templates to help drive meetings - or solo discovery or documentation activities. Frameworks help keep you on-track!

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I hate that it's necessary but 100% agree that scheduling meal breaks is great for creating some more balance + setting boundaries on your time. I need to get back into practice with this – and love the idea of scheduling coffee breaks too – maybe then I wouldn't end up reheating my coffee multiple times a day 😅. 

And yes – templates are such a game-changer for meetings! Not only keeps things on track with an agenda but can also replace some meetings with async collab (I feel so strongly about this that I made a flowchart👇). 

could that meeting have been a confluence page_.png

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Sharon Tan Community Manager Jun 27, 2022

Love this discussion @Meg Bailey !! While I do have Slack and Gmail on my phone, I turn off notifications for Gmail so that it only refreshes manually when I open the app.

Aside from that, I also like @Dave Liao schedule time for walks, lunch, and breaks! Also loving the out of office plan too to keep everyone informed. Looking forward to this series!!

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Switching my home office from a laptop to a desktop that I can walk away from and not take with me.  This simple thing has allowed me to shutdown.

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jun 30, 2022

That's a great idea! So simple yet such an effective way to avoid "work time" bleeding into "life time". 

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Andy Gladstone Community Leader Jun 27, 2022

My current struggles are less tactical or strategic and have become more existential. I struggle with an imbalance of fulfillment vs. effort/time. I spend much less time with my family or on personal pursuits than I do at the office/work, yet the level of fulfillment I feel from the time spent at work is drastically less than what I feel with family.

This reality leads to shorter time to burnout in the office, requiring more resets and generally plowing through to ends/goals rather than enjoying the journeys.

I don’t have answers for how to restore that sense of fulfillment, but appreciate everyone here listening and reading so I can at least express what I am feeling. 

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jul 19, 2022

I think what you're experiencing is something a lot of (if not most/all) people can relate to! It's probably unlikely many of us will achieve long-term equity between the time spent/fulfillment derived ratios of work and life but the optimist in me likes to think that we can work toward less time spent + more fulfillment at work. I'm biased of course but am a huge advocate of (*cough* Atlassian *cough*) tools and processes to enable the former. As far as the latter I've noticed that I feel much more fulfilled by my work when I'm able to focus on impact, particularly impact on other people, whether that be coworkers, Atlassian Community members, customers, etc. I know I speak for Atlassians & Community members alike when I say that the time and resources you share with us here Andy makes such a positive impact! 

Last thing I'll leave you with for now is this article/podcast ep I enjoyed recently - "Why Teams Are Key to Beating Burnout" – let me know your thoughts if you check it out! 

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Andy Gladstone Community Leader Jul 19, 2022

@Meg Bailey thank you so much for sharing. I put my feet up and ate lunch while listening to the podcast episode and I identified with so much of the content that I went to Amazon and purchased the last paperback version of the book in stock (at 41% off!). I look forward to reading more about her strategy for dealing with and addressing burnout.

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I have been struggling with feeling like I completed something at the end of the day. It could just be the work that I do, where each day you're not exactly going to "complete" something. That's just the nature of support but it's been really difficult pulling myself away knowing it'll just be there tomorrow along with who knows what else. 

I decided to not install Slack or any other work communication on my cell phone which has seemed to help a bit, but I still find myself walking to my computer and double checking no one needed me after hours for something. 

I have not tested anything like tips, tricks etc., yet. I was thinking of volunteering somewhere or having something scheduled 30mins after the end of my work day to make myself pull away. We shall see how that goes through out this year! :) 

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jul 19, 2022

Great idea to schedule something at the end of the day, love that! This is more general but I find it a lot easier to stick to a schedule (like signing off of work at x time) when I've made a commitment that I would need to back out of – even if it's just going for a walk with a friend or family member at a certain time! 

As far as feeling like it's tough to see what you've actually accomplished in a day, been there – it can be sooo demotivating! I actually learned this strategy as a way of managing ADHD symptoms, but think it's relevant to this application as well. 🙂 When you're planning your work day (whether it's a to-do list or a more advanced work management method), break each task/item down to the most granular, detailed units possible. For example, a task such as "Engage with Community content" might become: 

  1. Open Community on browser 
  2. Check notifications
  3. Read new post in discussion thread 
  4. Make notes of potentially relevant resources
  5. Draft reply
  6. Post reply
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 for each additional comment in discussion

I use this trick when I need motivation to initiate a task, but think this method of breaking tasks down from the broad, general, and sometimes ambiguous to much more tangible, action-oriented steps could also be helpful in getting a reality check on just how much you're accomplishing in a day – even if the higher level tasks remain incomplete! 🔐Added bonus: you get a dopamine hit from checking off items on a to-do list, no matter how small. 

Let me know how this goes if you try it out! 

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I am one of the lucky ones who does not struggle with work/life balance issues very often. I work for a great company that has defined norms and one of them is work/life balance. I find that a lot of work/life balance is about the company you work for. We are offered flexible time off (FTO) where we have unlimited PTO. We also have what is called Enrichment Time where we can spend up to 40 hour a year on ourselves; either taking training, going to conferences, attending webinars, volunteering, etc.

Me personally, one thing I do to maintain a good work/life balance is I do not install any work apps on my phone. When I leave my desk in my home office I am done for the day! Period! Well, unless there is an emergency, but that has never happened and hopefully never will! 

I hope the rest of you find some ways to instill a good work/life balance into your life! 

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jul 19, 2022

So agreed that working somewhere (both at an organizational level + at the team-level) with a culture that prioritizes healthy work-life integration and setting boundaries makes such a difference! It seems like a combination of systemic/organizational policies (e.g. unlimited PTO) and a culture that normalizes and promotes healthy practices and behaviors (e.g. actually taking PTO, and fully unplugging when you do) is key. 

And right there with ya on the no-work-apps-on-the-phone train 📵

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Mayur Jadhav Community Leader Jul 05, 2022

I am staying at 3 story apartment, usually, I follow a very simple method after every hour or 2 hours, I am going down and come up using stairs. That maintains me healthy and I also get a short break from work.

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jul 19, 2022

That's a great, simple method for getting out of your desk and taking short breaks throughout the day! Do you set a timer to remind yourself or just go every hour or 2 when you think of it? 

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Mayur Jadhav Community Leader Jul 28, 2022

@Meg Bailey I didn't setup any reminder but I just go every hour or 2 hour whenever I want.

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Hi everyone, great topic :). You know what...what stresses me the most is overthinking the Work and life balance topic. In last two years I tried to work 32hours/week. It was great because

  • it gave me the time for the family so I could have a breakfast with my kids and also spent the afternoon with them (in real I could work from 9am to 3pm)
  • everyone knew that I'm working less so the expectation of my performance has decreased
  • my wife and kids easily accepted when I urgently needed to work at home because I spend more time with them during the week
  • I had some time to go to do some excercising
  • and finally I had more energy to sit to my laptop in the evening and work for another hour (so 7 hours in sum per day) and to do the tiny tasks which I could not do during the day because of the interuptions and meetings

Now I'm working for 36hours and it is not so ideal. The mostly because the expecation of my performance is just too big (it is probably too close to 40hours/week that it is harder to distinguish the lower working hours.

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jul 19, 2022

Thanks for sharing your experience, you raise some really good points! I hadn't thought about the adjusted performance expectations aspect of a shorter workweek before. I wonder if knowing coworkers are available less (e.g. 32 or even 36 hours versus 40) prompts people to better prioritize the items they expect/ask you to contribute to – maybe it even pares down unnecessary or low-impact items that wouldn't get deprioritized otherwise? 

If you're interested, the Atlassian Brand Content team experimented with a 4-day workweek last year and published an article about their experience here!  

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Ajay _view26_ Community Leader Jul 14, 2022

I came across this page late , neverthless  I can relate to everyone and especially @Meg Bailey  about the shift to WFH during the pandemic... I in fact have gained more than 15 kgs sitting at home and following erratic work timing ... now I have made it a point to stick to my pre-Covid habits of going to office, taking the stairs etc to get back to where I was in 2020 ... For me sticking to habits and routines helps you to maintain a healthy balance between work and life outside the office.

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jul 19, 2022

Yes, glad you can relate! I agree that the working erratic hours negatively impacts me in soo many different ways. On the flip side, structure makes a huge difference as far as creating routines that are more conducive to healthy boundaries between work and life! 

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Regarding personal choices: Drinking plenty of water greatly impacted my well-being. Now I also carry around my 500ml bottle of water. Fasting is a discussable topic, I know, but for me is doing wonders. It helps to keep my focus and reduce general inflammation. 

On work setup, I reconfigured my notifications settings to keep an eye on essential topics.

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That's awesome that you've figured out what works for you health-wise! And always amazing how improving aspects of your physical health (like reducing inflammation) positively impacts other things like your ability to focus. 

And great idea re: prioritizing notifications! My brain's default is to react to every notification with equal weight/urgency, and my current solution is simply silencing notifications when I need deep focus time...will be following your lead here so I can stay informed on the stuff that matters without being distracted by minutiae! 

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If you find any super effective way of dealing with notifications I am all ears xD 

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Jul 28, 2022

Ditto! 😅

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Daniel Ebers Community Leader Jul 31, 2022

While taking breaks and drinking enough water seems to me being an important advise, that alone does not do much for me.
I found that a bunch of ideas,  incoming help-requests and escalations need to be prioritized, put on hold or just delegated to a specialists - what really helped me is the article in Atlassian blog:

It just makes no sense to try to cater all needs, the resources of everyone of us are limited. Incoming works needs to be distributed, categorized and prioritzed properly.

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Meg Bailey Atlassian Team Aug 01, 2022

Totally agreed, thanks for sharing this article @Daniel Ebers! This is something I'm always working on. 😅

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