You have certainly heard of blurring! This phenomenon is becoming increasingly common among all professional and managerial staff in France. It has joined the very closed circle of occupational pathologies.

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What is blurring?

Did you know that more than 33% of our employees stay online during their holidays? Most of them feel guilty if they don’t.

Definition of blurring

Blurring is a term used to define and describe a blurred situation between work and personal life. Digitalisation and the development of several digital tools have simplified work in many sectors. As a result, work habits have changed and so has the work-life balance.

As the term implies, blurring, from the verb “blur”, is a phenomenon that manifests itself through:

The gradual erosion of the boundary that ensures the balance between private and professional life.

This pathology appears gradually and can cause several problems, both physical and psychological.

Blurring

Is blurring an occupational disease?

This syndrome has no medical definition and is not recognised as an occupational disease. In the same way, as burn out, bore out, or brownout, it does not appear in the INRS table of occupational diseases. Unlike burn out or bore out, there is currently no case law recognising this pathology as an occupational disease.

Who is affected by blurring?

The boundary between professional and personal life is becoming increasingly blurred. The digitalisation of our environments has transformed our lifestyles by making them hyper-connected.

Who hasn’t checked their e-mail at the weekend or on holiday?

According to a survey conducted by Edenred/ Ipsos in 2015, this phenomenon mainly affects managers. 78% of them are solicited by their work outside their working hours. In return, 81% of managers deal with personal matters in the office.

Some manager profiles are very exposed. Most of the time, these are people who are in control: perfectionists, those who find it difficult to delegate, and those who lack confidence. It gives an illusion of control but over time, an employee who prevents himself from disconnecting from his work thinks he has to be available all the time and becomes exhausted trying to be as reactive as possible.

The symptoms and repercussions of blurring

Smartphones, tablets, and laptops have revolutionised the way we work by making our organisations and working methods more agile and flexible. But they also have direct consequences for employees. The overstretching of their capacities from morning to evening or even during the weekend exhausts their concentration and proves to be counterproductive.

Physical symptoms

The invasion of new technologies in our daily lives and the imperatives of speed and productivity “imposed” by our companies push us to always do more. All these elements have direct consequences on the physical health of employees:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Migraine
  • Muscle tension

Emotional, intellectual, and cognitive symptoms

Blurring has a direct impact on our fulfillment and well-being. Symptoms similar to those of burnout are generally observed:

  • Anxiety
  • Chronic stress
  • Devaluation
  • Loss of bearings

Technology has undoubtedly challenged our work/life balance. Blurring can quickly lead to burnout, a syndrome of physical and psychological exhaustion due to work overload.

Prevention of blurring

The progressive blurring of the boundary between professional and private life needs to be taken into account by companies. They must provide their employees with an appropriate response to guarantee their psychological health.

Mauvais équilibre de vie pro/ perso

Managing blurring as an employee

When you are affected by this professional pathology. You have to work on yourself and learn to disconnect outside of your working hours and days. Granted, this is not easy. Don’t hesitate to implement some good practices in your daily life:

  • Leave your professional equipment at the office (computer, tablet, smartphone….)
  • Create a new routine by inserting a moment of relaxation or sport into your day
  • Block your professional applications from a certain time and take full advantage of your free time.

Managing a case of blurring in your team

Managing the work/life balance of a team is far from being an easy task. Nevertheless, there are a few good practices to apply in order to create a climate built around serenity and efficiency.

First of all, it is very important to take into account the needs of your employees (parents, relatives of sick people, sportsmen and women, etc.) in order to harmonise everyone’s schedules. Successfully coordinating the organisation of working hours is a key element in preventing blurring.

It is also necessary to be able to strike a balance between the demands of the hierarchy and the needs of the employees in order to satisfy everyone. Communication is an essential element in ensuring a balance between team members.

Finally, don’t hesitate to introduce rules on disconnection. For example, ask your teams to stop sending emails before 9 am and after 7.30 pm. Become a role model for your work teams.

Preventing blurring at company level

According to a survey conducted in 2018 by Opinion Way for Eléas, almost half of French employees go online in the evening or at the weekend to work. It is therefore imperative for companies to put in place measures to limit employee hyper-connection. The aim is to give employees the keys to organise themselves according to their needs while preserving collective efficiency and fluidity in the organisation.

It is with this in mind that the right to disconnect came into force on 1 January 2017. Its objective is to guarantee “the implementation by the company of measures to regulate the use of digital tools, with a view to ensuring respect for rest and holiday time as well as personal and family life”.

This right to disconnect must be negotiated annually in companies with more than 50 employees and it requires all companies to draw up a charter specifying the rules and preventive actions put in place.

However, the current provisions of the Labour Code do not provide for any concrete measures to ensure the effectiveness of this right. It is up to the employer to put in place the appropriate measures to enable disconnection and to organise any negotiations that may be required.

Here are some ideas for ensuring an effective right to disconnect in your company:

  • Clarify expectations: It is essential to communicate to all employees in the company what your expectations are with regard to digital technology. What is expected of them in concrete terms?
  • Set an example: Ask your managers to be exemplary with regard to working hours. Prohibit meetings and emailing before 9 am, during lunch breaks, and after 7 pm.
  • Train your teams: As a company, it is very important to train your teams in the face of the danger of digitalisation of working methods. Give them the tools to ensure their work/life balance.

 

Conclusion: 

The work/life balance of employees within a company is one of the keys to their physical and psychological health but also to their productivity. In recent years, digitalisation has transformed our work organisations and lifestyles and has blurred the boundary between work and private life. It is necessary for companies to put in place measures to disconnect their employees outside working hours to avoid the blurring syndrome. The latter can have negative consequences on the health of employees and can even lead to burnout.

 

References:

Mangot, M (2018). Le boulot qui cache la forêt. Editions Larousse.

Köffer, Sebastian; Anlauf, Lea; Ortbach, Kevin; and Niehaves, Björn, “The Intensified Blurring of Boundaries Between Work and Private Life through IT Consumerisation” (2015). ECIS 2015 Completed Research Papers. Paper 108.

L’impact des outils numériques professionnels sur les salariés. Enquête réalisée par Opinion way pour Eleas, 2018.

Etude bien-être et motivation des salariés. Edenred/ Ipsos, 2015.


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