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As the French propose a ban on large companies expecting staff to check emails out of working hours, is technology the only thing upsetting a proper work/life balance?

Holding coffee and mobile phone

Quality of life isn't just about how often you look at your screen.

According to Numbeo, a user-generated database, the average travel time for commuters travelling by train or metro to work in London is just under one hour.

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In sharp contrast, commuters in Edinburgh, home to many of Scotland’s leading tech start-ups, take just a third of that time. We spoke to a few companies there to see how they manage quality of life for their people.

Is it all about the commute?

Stuart Lunn, founder and CEO of LendingCrowd, would argue that it is. He worked for 11 years in London before transferring to Edinburgh. Instead of travelling for up to 90 minutes a day, he now walks to work in 15. That gives him time to be more effective – and still have energy left for his family.

In Edinburgh, there’s more emphasis on having a life outside of work, and less evidence of the aggressive, sales driven approach to work that you find in London. But he’s quick to point out that there’s no work/life balance in a start-up. Stuart says, “You simply can’t survive on a nine to five mentality, but people know that when they join.”

Still, he doesn’t run his people ragged. “Edinburgh lets you create a company that isn’t based on the work-all-hours mentality,” he says, “we still deliver on time – and motivate people with share options and the satisfaction of doing well.”

You can shorten the commute, but what about improving efficiency once your people reach their desks?

Another way: six productive hours

So you can shorten the commute, but what about improving efficiency once your people reach their desks?

Focus on being effective, says Steve Tigar, CEO of start-up Money Dashboard. His software engineers work in two uninterrupted three-hour blocks. That gives them space to code without distraction.

The result? “We have a continuous flow, more like a marathon than a sprint,” he says. “We don’t have a team of stressed engineers, so they make fewer mistakes.”

Or just four productive days?

Training management tech company Administrate moved to a four-day week in 2015. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, says operations manager Jen Anderson.

The four-day week helps the team focus, and leaves the fifth day free. Employees can choose what to do with that day – many volunteer, go on courses, or make time for the family. What about work emails? “I do sometimes check them over the weekend,” says Jen, “but that’s my choice – not a company expectation.”

Don’t get distracted by technology

The physical reality of where and how you work have a deep effect on quality of life. Meanwhile, technology means more flexible working patterns – and having the office in our pockets.

Focusing on emails and a right to disconnect might be a start, but for many people emails are a necessary hassle that are here to stay. Find a way to avoid the draining commute, and the reward is a more engaged, effective team.

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