3 reasons against ‘always-on’ culture

It’s easy to fall into the trap of always being ‘on’, especially if you’re running a busy accounting firm. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if you felt exactly that—trapped.

But the reality is that this feeling is unsustainable. When you never disconnect from work, constantly worry about clients, continuously check your emails, endlessly scroll through Slack, and get interrupted at all hours of the day and night by notifications, you’re running an unwinnable race.

And it’s a race that will invariably end in burnout.

On one hand, as your firm’s leader, you might feel a responsibility to be contactable by your team at all times. And on the other hand, at what cost? 

If you’re finding it difficult to ‘let go’ and switch off, here are some of the reasons why you should finally take that leap and snooze those notifications. 

Why it’s okay to switch off

1. The world won’t stop spinning

If you’ve built a strong, autonomous team and trained them well, your firm will continue to operate if you routinely switch off. Emails will be answered, work will be completed and clients will be served, whether or not you check your phone at 1am in the morning.

So, this is an opportunity to let your hard work shine through the business you’ve built.

And if you’re worried that your team genuinely won’t cope without you, ask yourself why.

Consider switching off as a trial to see how they cope. Showing your team that you trust them by giving them greater autonomy will help them to step up and take on greater responsibility. 

And more often than not, it will be OK. The world will keep spinning if you turn your phone off for a few hours one afternoon.

After your trial, take a look at how they handled things autonomously. And as a long-term solution, begin thinking about how you can train, develop and hire a world-class team that can function with or without you.

2. Sometimes you need to refocus

When you stare at a jigsaw puzzle for hours, all the pieces begin to look the same. The same goes for your work. When you’re submerged in projects, it can be difficult to problem solve because you’re just in too deep.

Switching off is a great way to refocus your efforts. Take a break from the constant bombardment of notifications to regain focus.

Then, once you return to whatever project or problem you were struggling with, you’ll have a fresh mind, clear eyes, and renewed motivation.

3. It’s not sustainable

You can’t realistically expect to be ‘always-on’ for your entire career, or even for long stretches of your career. You’ll simply crash and burn. 

And chances are that the effects of burnout—such as exhaustion, feeling cynical about your job, and irritability—outweigh your concerns about switching off.

Running your firm is a long game, so you need to be prepared to run a sustainable race.

Quick tips for switching off

It’s not easy to break the ‘always-on cycle’, so here are some simple tips to help get started.

1. Turn off notifications. 

This is one of the quickest and most impactful ways to switch off. It doesn’t mean you need to turn off your notifications for good—instead, set yourself a schedule.

2. Time block your downtime.

Just like your calendar clearly indicates what meetings you have, when and with whom, time blocking involves dedicating certain chunks of time to switching off.

3. Declutter your tech stack. 

The more apps you have, the more notifications you’ll receive (or be worried you’ll miss), the more things to check, and the greater chance you’ll get lost in work.

4. Rethink how much value you place on always being busy.

If you automatically associate success with always being busy, you may need to reconsider how you define success.

5. Reset your expectations.

Take a step back and objectively ask yourself what you think is reasonable in terms of your working hours vs. downtime/ family time, etc. Do you genuinely consider 12 hour days reasonable for yourself? If so, you may need to press the reset button.

Don’t wait to crash and burn before switching off

Perhaps this is the first time you’re seriously considering the impacts of always being ‘on’, or maybe it’s been in the back of your mind for a while now. 

Either way, take this as a sign that you should have a plan in place to keep pace—a commitment to switching off so you can maintain a sustainable work life balance for years to come.