One of the great aspects of the web is that it’s always there. Want to buy a pair of socks at 2 AM? Searching for the title of a song you haven’t heard in years? It’s all there, all the time. Indeed, if New York is the city that never sleeps, the web is the medium that likewise refuses a nap.
24-hour convenience has a hidden cost, though. Those of us who have a role in building and maintaining websites often pay the price. We do so via our time and elevated stress levels. And we’re not just talking about working during regularly-scheduled hours.
For many designers and developers, it seems that we’re dealing with various tasks at all hours. Answering emails, debugging code, or trying to catch up with a pile of work. And then there are emergencies like a crashed site or malware infection.
This 24/7 work culture impacts web professionals of all stripes. Whether you’re working as part of a large team or as a solo entrepreneur – none of us are immune.
The situation brings to mind a few questions regarding how to better manage (if not completely change) the culture. Let’s see if we can find some answers to help us navigate the challenges.
Why Is It Difficult to Step Back?
The easy answer to feeling stressed and overwhelmed is to take a step back. Remove yourself from the situation and give your mind and body a rest. Sounds amazing, right? Yet, it’s also a bit unrealistic for many of us.
When you have responsibilities, it’s difficult to simply shut them out. The reality is that our projects still require attention. Clients will continue to send email messages. Unexpected issues will pop up without considering our need for a break.
The irony of it is that technology was supposed to make our lives easier. And while it might improve the design and build processes, the rest is still up to us. Artificial intelligence (AI) can help on that front – but don’t expect miracles.
Plus, the sites we build are now more complicated than ever. Just think – the more eCommerce and subscription-based websites you manage, the more urgent maintenance and repairs become. Every second of downtime has an economic impact.
And this is precisely why we feel the need to stay constantly connected. Because when we finally have a moment to ourselves, our phones buzz with yet another notification. It’s akin to being a firefighter, always at the ready – even in the calmest moments.
How Can Web Professionals Adapt?
It’s a safe bet that the web won’t be going on holiday. It won’t turn off for a few hours in deference to our needs. Therefore, it’s up to us to adapt.
Much of the challenge is in setting the right expectations. That applies to what clients expect from us, as well as what we expect from ourselves.
Setting boundaries can be difficult when it comes to providing great customer service. You want to be available when your clients need you. And it’s important to ensure that questions are answered, and problems are resolved.
Still, some clients will knowingly (or not) push the envelope in this area. If they send you an email in off-hours and you respond within a few minutes, they’ll come to expect it. Don’t be surprised if they start doing so more often.
On the other hand, if you routinely reply the next day, those expectations could change. No longer will they anticipate that you’ll spring into action at a moment’s notice. If you lead the way, they’ll likely follow along.
Context also plays a role. It’s important to prioritize the items that can or can’t wait. An emergency may require immediate attention. A basic question, on the other hand, can be saved for tomorrow.
In addition, putting your phone down and turning off notifications for a bit is highly recommended. Particularly when spending time with family and friends. You don’t want to be that person furiously typing away on a screen while a loved one is telling you about their day.
Perhaps you won’t be able to get away for long stretches. But you’ll at least give your brain a break and be better able to focus on other things.
Control What You Can
An always-on mindset seems like a modern problem. And it’s exacerbated by an industry where we can work from just about anywhere – including home. For many of us, there’s no traditional office to separate these different parts of life.
There are no hard-and-fast guidelines to live by, either. The responsibility of keeping a work/life balance is ours. Neither clients nor colleagues will do it for us.
The good news is that there is an opportunity to shift the narrative. None of us has to be the web designer that works all odd hours of the day. By putting some boundaries in place and processes to back them up, we can form healthier habits.
In the end, that helps you serve both your clients and yourself in the best way possible.