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5 years ago I stopped syncing anything work related (except calendar) on my phone, even though I was working with a remote team spread across 19 timezones.
I did it in the name of the Atlassian value Build with heart and balance.
After leaving Atlassian I’ve kept this going, both during my time at MongoDB, Vue Storefront, and now at Umano.
As a remote worker who lives in Belgium, but interacts with people around the world, I can have a pretty weird working schedule, certainly not your typical 9 to 5. This flexibility allows me to make time for my amazing family, but also still get the work done.
Unfortunately, when I first started working remote this also blurred the lines between personal and professional time. And while working at Atlassian that I started looking at my phone more and more during my personal time. I was constantly reading and reacting to emails and Slack messages and even attending meetings. Simply because I loved what we were doing at Atlassian, and enjoyed the people I was working with.
But I forgot about my other team, the most important team in all my life, my family. This all became clear to on our yearly summer vacation. My wonderful wife and I talked about everything that had happened in the last year and she mentioned that she hadn’t see me spend any meaningful time with our boys and her in the last 6 months. She said that although it was called personal time, I wasn’t there for them. Not mentally, and often not even physically. I was still reacting to everything and everyone through my phone or jumping on meetings during these hours.
My first reaction was to tell her that she was wrong, that I did spend time with them and I even came up with a couple of examples...
But then it hit me full force: She was right and I was just trying to come up with excuses.
So we talked about why this happened. And it came down to the facts that I wanted to be visible as a remote worker. I wanted to be a team player. And I simply liked my job and my coworkers and wanted to make sure that I wasn’t a blocker for any of the work they were doing.
But I also want to be a great father and a good husband. As my family means the world to me. Your family is the only team that is there for life.
So how could I fix this and find back the right balance for both of my teams?
I decided on taking back my family time by removing the one thing that distracted me the most: professional messages in Slack and email on my phone.
Doing this has made me more relaxed during my personal time. It made me more focussed during working hours. And in general it made me more fun to be around. So it was a win for me personally, a win for my family and friends.
But also a win for my team because:
It showed that it’s okay to set boundaries and take time off.
It helped my team to build out stronger processes for async work.
It helped us be more efficient at meetings, focussing them on the essence of what needed to get done.
It made everyone happier and healthier, but also more productive.
And that’s why even when moving companies 3 times since I still don’t have anything work related on my phone. Except:
I still sync my calendar so I know when I have meeting and get a notification when it’s almost time to meet (especially handy when I’m in focus mode).
I still install Slack on my phone when I’m travelling for work as it helps me to quickly sync up with team members who are travelling with me. But I remove it again as soon as I land in Brussels on my way home.
What do you do to keep the right balance between work and family in this ever more remote, global, and always on world of working? Please let me know in a comment.