Can't achieve the right work-life balance? This may be where you are going wrong

We're carrying our work inboxes around in our pockets, and we can't stop checking them.

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Employees feel pressure to check in with work even when they're off the clock, making it difficult to mentally switch off.

Image: JGI / Tom Grill / Getty Images

Hitting the right work-life balance has been extremely difficult over the past year. With many offices still closed, we're stuck working from home, meaning there's little to separate our working hours and personal leisure time.

By the sounds of it, though, we're probably not doing ourselves any favors. According to a survey by Google and software company Qualtrics, 68% of us are using one smartphone for both work and personal purposes, making it considerably harder to switch off our professional selves outside of office hours.

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Qualtrics and Google surveyed 3,000 employees about their mobile phone habits in relation to their work-life balance and ability to disconnect from work in their private time.

It discovered 60% of us are checking for important emails, texts and calls from work outside of office hours, or otherwise planning for the next day (44%), setting ourselves tasks or notes (32%) or even completing work tasks at home (29%).

Rather than using laptops for work, employees are turning to the devices that are most commonly within easy reach – their smartphones.

Pressure to make it appear as though we are always available to employers appears to be a big driving factor behind our inability to mentally check out . Just over a third (34%) of respondents said they found it difficult to resist checking in with work while at home, with two out of three (62%) saying they "always" or "very often" used their phone for work outside of working hours.

We're checking in with work throughout the day, too. Nearly half (44%) of employees said they checked their phone first thing in the morning, while 40% continued to check their phone for work updates after clocking off at the end of the day, and 31% used their phone for work on weekends.

Knowledge workers and those with demanding jobs were more likely to find it harder to disconnect from work, researchers found. More than two-thirds (36%) of knowledge workers said they found it difficult to resist the urge to check on work outside of hours, compared to 28% of flexible or gig workers.

Meanwhile, 50% of employees who worked more than 54 hours found it difficult to disconnect, compared to 31% of those who worked 35-39 hours a week.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, while this might be convenient, using one phone for both halves of our lives has a detrimental impact on work-life balance: 35% said using one phone for both work and personal hurt their work-life balance.

It also carries other issues, with 26% citing concerns about the lack of privacy that using a single handset for work and leisure offered, while 22% had similar security concerns.

Despite this, 59% of respondents said they "rarely or never" thought about what data their company could access, and nearly half (48%) said they either "completely" or "strongly" trusted their employer with their data.

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Google and Qualtrics' research also sought to discover whether Google's Android work profile, which separates work apps and data from the user's personal device profile, could help users hit a more balanced work-life equilibrium.

Google said this would become increasingly important as organizations shifted to more hybrid and mobile-centric ways of working.

"Across the various user groups surveyed, 70% said they'd prefer a user interface (UI) on their phones that clearly separates work and personal apps and data, over a UI with no separation," Google said in a blog post.

"In line with our findings, the data shows that work profile users (81%) are more satisfied than non-work profile users (71%) with their experience of managing work and personal life on the same device."

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