Six ways women in tech can improve their work-life balance

Holly Brockwell
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When you leave work work, actually leave work!
Image:

When you leave work work, actually leave work!

Without a single mention of "having it all." Except that one

We've already discussed how important self-care is for women in tech. Now, it's time to look at some practical tips for tipping the work-life scales in your favour - because there'll always be more work, but there won't always be more life.

1. Turn your damn notifications off

No, seriously, turn them off. Now. You do not need a notification, a ping, a popup or a nudge every single time you get a work email. You especially do not need one on your personal phone, or on the weekend.

Very, very few things are truly urgent, and the ones that are will have other ways to reach you than just email. Turn it off so you can stop living in the perpetual interruption > distraction > reaction cycle that push notifications cause.

2. Make commitments in the evening, and show up for them

If you've got no evening plans, it can be ridiculously easy to let your finishing time slip until by the time you leave, travel and actually get home, it's virtually bedtime.

That's why you should make an effort to make commitments in the evening at least once a week, whether it's a scheduled family dinner (ideally at a restaurant so you can book a table), a catch-up with an old friend, or a movie you've already bought the tickets for. And make a habit of turning up when you say you will. Don't assume your partner will understand if you're 30 minutes late - respect them like you respect your boss, and be on time.

3. Take up a class

In addition to your evening commitments above, take up a hobby or a class that happens at a fixed time every week. When you know you have to be at tae-kwon-do at 7pm, you will actually leave your desk at 6pm, even if there's still more to do (tip: there will always be more to do).

An hour a week isn't a huge commitment, but it will stop you saying yes to work you can't complete without spending your evening in the office, and it builds up surprisingly quickly into a whole new skill. No, work-related skills don't count. Pick something totally different, and give your brain a break.

4. Take all your holiday days

ALL OF THEM. No rolling over allowed. You get a pitiful amount of time off per year compared to the amount of your life you'll spend at work. For goodness' sake, use it.

If you can't manage a whole week off, take a couple of days here and there. Take a Friday and Monday and have a long weekend. Take random Wednesdays if you must. Just TAKE THOSE DAYS, they're your legal right and part of your compensation package.

If you work at one of those companies that offers 'unlimited' holiday days because they know statistically it makes people take less time off, pick an average amount (like 25 days a year) and commit to taking them all. The company will cope, and you'll be not only a better worker but a better person for it.

5. Be ill when you're ill

Too many of us wouldn't dream of calling in sick unless we've literally lost a limb, and even then we'd probably only be an hour late. But presenteeism helps no one. You'll infect everyone, you'll perform at half your usual capability, it'll take you twice as long to recover as if you'd rested, and you'll send a message to your juniors that you expect them to put work ahead of their health.

This kind of attitude leads to burnout, and it's bad for everyone. When you're sick, be sick. DO NOT WORK FROM HOME. Be off. Put your phone on silent, stop checking your emails and sit in front of Netflix like a normal person until you feel 100 per cent (not 90 per cent, not 95 per cent) again.

And for god's sake go to the doctor if you need to.

6. Institute Screen-Free Saturdays

Or Sundays, or whatever day works for you and your family.

That means no computers, phones, tablets or tech. Go and check out the new exhibition, or go on a nature walk with the kids. Want to take photos? Use a camera! Remember those? The little ones will be fascinated.

If you can't manage once a week at first, do once a fortnight, or once a month, or whatever you can manage to take some time away from pixel-based perfection-chasing. Get away from the relentless news cycle, the like-treadmill, the humblebragging selfies and the weekend work. Remember who you are, and refill your inspiration tanks.

You'll be glad you did come Monday morning.

Logo for the Computing and CRN Women in Tech Festival 2019

Computing and CRN have united to present the Women in Tech Festival UK 2019, on 17th September in London.

The event will celebrate successful women in the IT industry, enabling attendes to hear about, and to share, personal experiences of professional journeys and challenges.

Whether you're the ‘Next Generation', an ‘Inspirational Leader', or an ‘Innovator of Tech' this event will offer inspiration on not only how to improve yourself, but how to help others too. Discover more here

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