Switching off from work can be challenging, but can be done!
Do you tick any of these ‘workaholic’ boxes?
- I check my emails after hours and on weekends
- I take a long time to fall asleep, as my brain is too wired about work and deadlines
- Friends and family make fun of me being a ‘workaholic’
- I prefer not to go on long holidays in the fear of missing out and delegate tasks to others
- I often have to skip social occasions due to work engagements
If you do tick these boxes and the above sounds familiar, welcome to the club (although not one to be proud of).
FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE
As a business owner myself, I experience the pressure of balancing work and private life first hand on a regular basis. I feel like there are never enough hours in the day and days in the week to accomplish what I need to do.
I run a boutique tech recruitment agency, where I cover a variety of roles: director, business development, recruitment consultant, operations manager, operations, finance, HR etc … It’s all hands on deck, but the show must go on. So it’s no wonder I fall into the trap of ‘always keep going’. Guilty!
I am, however, conscious of the consequences (physical, mental, social) that come as a result of never switching off from work and there are indeed ways to train yourself to unplug and make a change for the better.
SWITCHING OFF: NOT JUST FOR BUSINESS OWNERS
According to a research from Gallup, 36% percent of surveyed employees check emails after hours and 10% believe this is extremely important in order to advance, get promoted and get ahead in the company they work at.
As I operate in the employment services industry, work-life balance is a topic that comes up a lot in conversations when I consult with my clients, which range from enterprises to SMEs, to scale-ups.
If you run a business or manage a team, not only should you be responsible for your own work-life balance but you should also encourage your employees or team members to have boundaries. If supervisors communicate clear support for work-life balance, employees feel a greater sense of control over intrusions into non-work life, they will be better able to manage stress, which then pays off in higher productivity and engagement levels.
WORK-LIFE BALANCE OR WORK-LIFE INTEGRATION?
Whilst still widely used, over the years the term work-life balance has been evolving into work-life integration. Why? The former evokes an opposition between work and life where automatically one should compete with the other.
The concept of work-life integration, on the contrary, creates more synergies between all areas that define “life” such as work, family, social interactions, health and wellbeing etc.
With COVID-19 forever changing the way we work and remote working here to stay, integration should become ‘the new normal’.
Technology (whilst can certainly be a force for good) has also been blurring the line between work and home for years now, but the pandemic has definitely accelerated the process.
A research conducted by Roy Morgan, reveals that 52% of Australians employed professionals who work from home find it difficult to switch off from work. But the belief that being able to work anywhere makes us more productive is an illusion.
Instead, here’s what to watch out for:
- Increased stress
- Cognitive and mental exhaustion / burn-out
- Low productivity / performance
- Inability to enjoy time with family and friends
- Social withdrawal
- Mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression
All of the above consequences can indeed be avoided and the quality of life can improve significantly if you make a conscious commitment to shift your mindset and modify your routine.
A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
In the attempt to make myself more detached from work, I have researched (and practiced!) ways that can help you unwind and turn-off your brain, not just the laptop!
- Observe how your mind and body react when, for example, you are checking your emails during the week-end.
- Be intentional about it. Make a statement or a pledge about your intention to wind-down and change your habits.
- Meditate and exercise being in the present moment.
- Turn ruminating thoughts into problem-solving thoughts. Most people tend to mull over work-related issues without realising that this serves no purpose at all. Instead, focus your attention on finding a solution or course of action and set a time for how long you allow yourself to work on it.
- Engage in an immersive activity (not a passive one, like watching Netflix). This could be for example:
- Playing an instrument
- Reading a book
These are activities that will forcefully drive your focus away from work. Surprisingly, in order to relax you need active engagement and attention. Additionally, some of these activities can be carried out in the company of your beloved and have a positive effect on relationships.
- Do not rely on alcohol to help you switch-off
- When at work, organise your daily tasks by Rocks, Pebbles and Sands whereby your rocks are your largest and most looming tasks. Tackle those at the start of the day so that you can ease out by the end with the smaller, less important items on your to-do list.
- Create a plan for unfinished work. As humans, we are biased towards goal completion and when a goal is not fulfilled it creates tension. Making a plan for unfinished work can help you alleviate the tension and free up space in your mind for other matters.
Start adopting some of these strategies and believe me you won’t be ticking the ‘workaholic’ boxes anymore.